News / Africa

Polio Surges in Nigeria

Heather Murdock
ABUJA — Polio is again on the rise in Nigeria and doctors said the entire region should be on alert. An alarming number of new cases have been found in the north, where authorities are already dealing with the unrest caused by the militant group Boko Haram. Health officials warn that even a few cases of polio can lead to a devastating outbreak.
 
These young men say that polio not only robbed them of the use of their legs, but of their ability to work for a living. They say they beg for money in this Abuja market for food and school fees. (VOA/H. Murdock)These young men say that polio not only robbed them of the use of their legs, but of their ability to work for a living. They say they beg for money in this Abuja market for food and school fees. (VOA/H. Murdock)
x
These young men say that polio not only robbed them of the use of their legs, but of their ability to work for a living. They say they beg for money in this Abuja market for food and school fees. (VOA/H. Murdock)
These young men say that polio not only robbed them of the use of their legs, but of their ability to work for a living. They say they beg for money in this Abuja market for food and school fees. (VOA/H. Murdock)
“I believe that getting polio eradication  is one of the smartest allocations of resources that the world can make," said billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. "The world is coming together to do something truly amazing -- protect every single child everywhere from this crippling virus.”

On Thursday in New York, Gates spoke to world leaders, calling for a renewed commitment to polio eradication, saying $2 billion yearly will be enough to wipe the disease off the face of the planet by 2018.
 
On Thursday in Nigeria, 20-year-old Mohammad Shehu was seated on a wooden slat with wheels.  His thin, useless legs were folded underneath him.  He pushed himself through the markets, calling for spare change to pay for food.
 
Shehu said he was one of three boys in his town to get polio when he was about four years old.  As he spoke, two friends crowd around him. One young man wais also seated on wooden slat, with pink flip-flops on his hands. The other was propped up on a single good leg and a crudely-made crutch.
 
The friends said they have never been to a doctor, and they don’t know why their legs don’t work. Health workers say it is undoubtedly polio, a disease that can kill or cripple.
 
This year, all but three countries in the world are polio-free, but the disease is spreading in Nigeria. There have been 90 new cases reported this year, including 13 since September 5.

Frank Mahoney, Centers for Disease Control Chief Health Officer for Polio Response says these numbers may seem small, but it’s a big deal.

"One of the things people don’t remember, since the eradication program began, the case counts have remarkably gone down so very few people are getting paralytic polio like it used to be," said Mahoney. "And so if the program were to fail, and we don’t eradicate polio the number of children that would get paralytic disease would certainly increase. So that’s the big concern.  If we don’t complete the job, polio will come back and there will be many, many cases."
 
Mahoney said the rise in polio in northern Nigeria is particularly worrying because nomadic life-styles and cross-border trade are common there, and the disease could spread to other countries.  
 
Northern Nigeria has also been struggling with an Islamist insurgency in recent years, and Mahoney says the threat to health workers is partially responsible for the recent surge in polio cases. Health workers also struggle with access to remote, transitory communities, he says.
 
Polio is preventable with a vaccine, but there is no cure. Spokesperson for the State Minister of Health, Tashikalmah Hallah, says health workers struggle with fear and rejection of the vaccine in many communities, and the government is working to convince people that the vaccine is not dangerous for children.
 
“There are some that still reject it. If vaccinators approach them, they’ll say, ‘No.’  But on this issue, with the help of traditional rulers as well as religious leaders within the communities, that case of rejection has gone down," said Hallah.
 
As he spoke, Nigerian leaders and officials, including President Goodluck Jonathan, were in New York, partially to meet with leaders like Bill Gates on strategies to combat the rise of polio in Nigeria, and its continued presence in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  
 
At the same time, the three young polio victims in the Abuja market decided to take a break from begging and use their earnings, in bills worth 1-30 cents, to have a small lunch.

You May Like

Multimedia In US, Decision Expected Soon in Racially Charged Case

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid