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

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora