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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More