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

Official: S. Sudan President, Rebel Leader to Meet in Tanzania

Talks part of effort to end conflict in country that has left more than 10,000 people dead, displaced more than 1.5 million others More

Dutch Deny Link to Mystery Submarine Off Sweden

Netherlands denies Russian claim that 'foreign vessel' photographed in waters off Sweden could be Dutch More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid