Horn of Africa countries renew war on polio

Health Minister Dr. Fawzia Abikar signed the polio eradication agreement with her IGAD counterparts in Kenya’s Garissa county. Photo: Min of Health

By Fauxile Kibet

Health Ministers and representatives from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan Sunday signed a joint statement in Garissa, Northern Kenya committing to work together to eradicate polio in the region.

The agreement which was signed under the auspice of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) comes in response to a recent outbreak of the polio virus in the region. Somalia has detected and reported cases of the virus – from human contact since December 2017.

In March this year, Kenya confirmed one case in an environmental sample gathered from waste in Eastleigh, which sparked a nationwide polio immunisation campaign which is still ongoing in the East African state.

Already, Somalia has been declared a Grade 2 scale and marked as the epicentre of the outbreak by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The global health body also has marked other East African countries including Ethiopia, S.Sudan, Uganda and Djibouti as facing a risk of polio outbreaks due to frequent movements of people across the porous regional borders.

“Diseases know no borders and countries in the region faced common challenges, including poor infrastructure, human conflict, porous borders and insecurity, said Kenyan Ministry of Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS), Dr Rashid Aman.

Kenya’s Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki on her part said that countries in the region had experienced repeated polio outbreaks due to increased cross border migration occasioned by conflict, lack of food and low population immunity.

Somalia’s challenges

On her part, Somalia’s Health Minister Ms Fauziya Abikar Nur observed that her country faced numerous challenges in efforts to reach out to children due to the mobile nature of its population which is largely nomadic and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

She also noted that more efforts were needed in ensuring that every child was reached and that health sectors within the region should ensure that no child was left behind in the on-going campaign.

Kenya targets to reach 2.8 million children under five years in its ongoing campaign while Ethiopia intends to reach 500,000 children. Somalia in its part has scheduled to kick of its vaccination campaign from early October and expects to reach 2.5 million children.

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