Nige­ria’s Boko Haram ex­trem­ists ham­per po­lio erad­i­ca­tion

Sun.Star Pampanga - - HEALTH! -

Me­lim­i­nated, along with Pak­istan and Afghanistan. The fi­nal phase to wipe out po­lio is “prov­ing to be ex­traor­di­nar­ily dif­fi­cult” be­cause “the po­liovirus is sur­viv­ing de­spite all the good work and in the face of ev­ery­thing that is be­ing thrown at it,” said a WHO-ap­pointed mon­i­tor­ing group at the end of last year.

In Nige­ria, there is lit­tle or no sur­veil­lance data in Borno state, and “un­less there is a break­through to reach those ar­eas in Borno, the en­tire po­lio (erad­i­ca­tion) pro­gram is at risk,” said the mon­i­tor­ing group. Nige­ria had other out­breaks last year in­clud­ing cholera, hep­ati­tis, mon­key­pox, Lassa and yel­low fevers, show­ing the chal­lenges to the coun­try’s health care sys­tem. Glob­ally the cam­paign to erad­i­cate po­lio has been faced with out­breaks last year in non-en­demic coun­tries like Congo and Syria.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion had de­clared Nige­ria po­lio free in Septem­ber 2015 af­ter it went a year with­out any new cases. But in 2016 — af­ter two years with no cases — fresh po­lio cases broke out in three lo­ca­tions in Borno state. No new cases were re­ported in Nige­ria in 2017 or so far this year.

Now the WHO says it will be spend­ing $127 mil­lion to­ward erad­i­cat­ing po­lio in Nige­ria be­tween 2018 and 2019. Ro­tary’s pro­gram is help­ing that ef­fort by tar­get­ing some 2.1 mil­lion chil­dren in 24 ac­ces­si­ble lo­cal gov­ern­ments. But there are still three ar­eas in Borno state that are not in­cluded be­cause of on­go­ing in­sta­bil­ity: Kala-Balge, Marte and Abadam. For those un­reach­able ar­eas, the vac­ci­na­tors train Nige­rian sol­diers in how to ad­min­is­ter the vac­cines.

In a few cases, vil­lagers have re­ported be­ing threat­ened by Boko Haram fight­ers to avoid the po­lio vac­cine. And in 2013 a num­ber of vac­ci­na­tors were at­tacked and killed by the ex­trem­ists, lead­ing some of their col­leagues to dis­guise their vac­cine car­ri­ers or hide them un­der their hi­jabs.

In ad­di­tion to the threat posed by Boko Haram, some com­mu­ni­ties are still fear­ful of the po­lio vac­cine af­ter years of mis­in­for­ma­tion that it can cause steril­ity and other health prob­lems.

“Many peo­ple now ac­cept the vac­cine against po­lio, but there are still more cases of re­jec­tions here and there and we are do­ing our best to tackle them,” said Digma Zubairu, district head in She­huri-North.

Fal­mata Kolo, a 21year-old vol­un­teer with Ro­tary’s out­reach pro­gram Po­lio Plus, said she works to reassure peo­ple that the vac­ci­na­tions are safe.

“I also tell them should your child con­tract po­lio and grew up to un­der­stand that his or her par­ent had a chance to pre­vent the dis­ease but failed, the child would never for­give the par­ents,” she said. “This kind of mes­sage ac­tu­ally spurs many moth­ers to of­fer their kids for the vac­cine.”

Fa­timah Muhammed, a 45-year-old mother of six, says par­ents should ac­cept the vac­cine.

“To­day we have chil­dren that had taken the vac­cine some 15 years ago who are mar­ried and are even hav­ing chil­dren of their own,” she says. “So my ad­vice for my fel­low moth­ers who have kids un­der the age bracket (6 years old) to get them to take the vac­cine be­cause it is good.”

AIDUGURI, Nige­ria (AP) — Is­lamic ex­trem ists made Imana Al­haji Gana’s vil­lage in north­east­ern Nige­ria too dan­ger­ous for health work­ers to vac­ci­nate against po­lio. Now that she and her fam­ily have fled to a dis­place­ment camp, those work­ers want to catch her chil­dren in time.

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