How Boko Haram Is Keeping Polio Alive In Nigeria – Report

NIGERIA / Kano / 4 June 2010
Children receive Oral Polio Vaccine during the official flag-off of the polio campaign of the Gwale LGA at Tudunyola in the Kabuga locality of Kano city.

Polio have been reported to be back in Nigeria as recent confirmed cases have begun to cause panic across the country.

Three new cases of polio confirmed in areas already liberated from Boko Haram’s grip which have prompted health personnel to launch campaigns to vaccinate millions of children across four West and Central African countries, have suggested that despite World Health Organization’s declaration in 2015 of their successful multibillion dollar effort to rid the world of polio, the threat still remains among us.

According to NPR, health officials in Nigeria have recently found three paralyzed kids inside parts of Borno State that have been abducted by Islamic insurgent group, Boko Haram.

According to Chima Ohuabunwo, an epidemiologist who, for the past five years, has been working with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Nigeria, Boko Haram has alienated Borno State, in Nigeria, from the rest of the world.

He said: “There’s been no direct in and out movement of persons, or access to health care, for the past two to three years,” adding that half of the state was a no-go area earlier in the year as government health workers and international relief groups, could be killed or attacked if they entered the zone.

“Of about 38 secondary health care facilities in the entire state, 16 were totally burnt down by these insurgents,” Ohuabunwo says.

However, he confirms that recent military drills by the Nigerian army against Boko Haram territory had allowed health officials find the three children who had been paralyzed by polio, the report says.

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Ohuabunwo said that the priority is for children in the state to be vaccinated, however, the fact that parts of Borno State is under military control has made it difficult for the process.

“We only get access to the children when there’s some incursion by the military and they [the children] come out.

“We have prepared health teams called border post teams who sit and wait. As soon as the children come out, we get them, assess them, administer vaccines.”

Nigeria is conducting three mass polio immunization campaigns in addition to the roadside vaccinations, across parts of Borno State. According to the reports, vaccinating every child under age 5 is the goal. A mass campaign would start from October which would be modelled after the first campaign which was held in August.

A professor of medicine at Emory University who has worked for years on eradicating polio, Dr. Walt Orenstein, has said that Polio leads to paralysis, and this is the problem with the disease.

“One of the problems with polio is that the infections that lead to paralysis are just the tip of the iceberg.”

“This means there is probably a lot more poliovirus floating around in the Boko Haram-controlled parts of north eastern Nigeria than has been detected. The World Health Organization is concerned about the virus spilling over into Cameroon, Chad and Niger, so WHO is planning additional emergency polio vaccination campaigns in those neighbouring countries,” the report said.


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