News / Africa

Researchers Propose New Polio Strategy

In this May 28, 2013 photo, Somali vaccination workers give an anti-polio drop to a child, in Mogadishu. Somalia.
In this May 28, 2013 photo, Somali vaccination workers give an anti-polio drop to a child, in Mogadishu. Somalia.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
Researchers are calling for a different strategy to eradicate polio in countries where the disease remains endemic, namely, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. They say greater community involvement and stronger health systems are needed.


All three countries where polio remains entrenched face attack by militants, political unrest and a lack of trust among the populations.

Dr. Seye Abimbola -- of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency – is one of the authors of two articles that appear in PLOS Medicine. He says it’s time to move away from – what’s called – a leader-centric approach to polio eradication.  

“It’s the sort of way of doing things that isn’t quite people-centric enough. The people that we are trying to reach with vaccines for polio – they are children – they are parents. Those parents have concerns, often valid concerns about the safety of the vaccines, for example. [And] about other issues, social-economic issues in their lives, for example.”

He said parents often have health issues on their minds other than polio.

“They have bigger problems. Big problems, for example, like pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. You see a family, who in the past six months [has] lost a child or two to these diseases. But the government of the country keeps coming, keeps offering vaccines. It gets to a point where the mother would wonder – this is not the only problem I have. What are you doing about other problems? This sort of resistance is quite logical.”

Abimbola said that polio immunization should be part of a larger health and development intervention program. He writes that “the ambition of the global health community to eradicate polio appears to be blinding it to lessons learned about health systems over the past 30 years.” He adds, “Polio eradication will only be achieved with stronger health systems and bottom-up community engagement.”

“I think it’s even more important now than ever. There’s a lot of distrust and I think one of the most important ways to address distrust is to actually see the other party – not as an opponent, not as an enemy – but as a human being with legitimate concerns that can be aired, that can be understood and can be addressed,” he said.

He said it’s important to somehow persuade militant groups that health interventions are necessary. For example, aid agencies say there have been cases where even the Taliban in Afghanistan has endorsed polio immunization campaigns.

“The reason why the Taliban does it in in Afghanistan is because the Taliban sees itself as a government in waiting. And when a militant group wants the people’s trust they go at it by trying to do what the people want. So if you can make the people want the services that we are offering we hope that these militant groups, who are trying to get some legitimacy, would see ensuring access to these services as a way of getting legitimacy, rather than as a way of imposing themselves on the people,” he said.

Creating stronger health systems and increasing community engagement, he says, will require more time and investment than currently exists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Co-authors of the article are from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In a separate article in PLOS Medicine, authors stressed the importance of Lady Health Workers in Pakistan. There are about 106,000 women who have that official title. They assist in immunization efforts, child birth, family planning, nutritional advice, hygiene and pre-natal care.

However, the article said they are often in “desperate financial straits” with little opportunity for career advancement. And they often put their lives at risk during immunization campaigns in areas where militants are based.

The article said instead of treating them as “disposable labor,” they should be “well-supported, active partners in achieving a healthier Pakistan.”

The authors are from Middlebury College in the U.S. and Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

You May Like

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs