Polio Nigeria

Polio is a highly infectious disease without a cure caused by a virus that can cause permanent paralysis in a matter of hours. It has existed as long as a human society but became a major public health issue in late Victorian times with major epidemics in Europe and the United States. According to an Egyptian stele, the disease has been around for at least 35 centuries. Polio mainly affects children under the age of five.

“The battle of polio” has seen a 99 percent reduction since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988 when one of the world's most feared diseases was endemic in 125 countries and was paralyzing nearly 1,000 children every day.

Rotary field coordinators are helping close immunization gaps in northern Nigeria by gaining public support from government and community leaders through providing technical support and monitoring the quality of vaccination teams.

Using violence and misinformation, Boko Haram militant group has hampered efforts to get every child in the country vaccinated against polio, leaving nearly 66,000 children in remote villages in northern Nigeria without the vaccine, according to Nigerian federal estimates. But public health officials are pushing back, teaming up with the military and volunteers who have put their lives on the line to get vaccines to everyone.

Boko Haram has controlled territory in northern Nigeria since around 2003, when they implemented Sharia, or Islamic law, in the region. As part of an effort to dispel Western views, the group — whose name roughly translates to “Western education is sinful” — spread vaccine misinformation, claiming that the vaccine could lead to infertility and bone injuries. The group has also used violence to deter vaccinators. In 2013, at least nine vaccination team members in the state of Kano were murdered, and witnesses pointed to Boko Haram as the culprit.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in 2020  that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, leaving the devastating disease endemic in only two countries and bringing the world one major step closer to achieving this goal of ending polio for good.

Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have witnessed a case of polio - in Borno state, in the north-east. Outside of Nigeria, the last case on the continent was in the Puntland region of Somalia, in 2014.

PUBLICATIONS

NYT: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/12/health/a-milestone-in-africa-one-year-without-a-case-of-polio.html

Al Jaazera: https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/my-nigeria/2015/08/playing-pain-nigeria-football-polio-150825112325046.html