Nigeria’s Vanguard features an interview with Christopher Elias, president of global development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in which he discusses the fight against polio in Nigeria. In the interview, Elias said, “Right now, we are down to just 200 cases globally, but if we were to stop the eradication efforts for polio, we could be looking at 200,000 new cases a year. We are close to the finish. What is important to recognize is that particularly in this final stage in Nigeria, we are not just eliminating polio, we are building a system to deliver vaccines for other vaccine preventable diseases that are common causes of morbidity and mortality for children. So the polio eradication will leave the world with a better surveillance system to understand the patterns of vaccine preventable disorders and better immunization and case development systems” (Ogundipe, 10/2).
NPR’s “Morning Edition” host Steve Inskeep on Monday interviewed reporter Jason Beaubien, who is traveling in northern Nigeria, about the country’s increase in polio cases this year. Beaubien discussed myths and fears surrounding polio vaccination in Nigeria, including beliefs that the immunization will sterilize children, but also said “one of the most encouraging things … is that the religious leaders in northern Nigeria are now really united. And they are coming out and saying you should get your children vaccinated. And some of them are being quite harsh as well, saying you have to get your children vaccinated.” NPR notes Nigeria has recorded 90 polio cases this year (10/1).
In Pakistan, one of only three nations worldwide where polio remains endemic, “rumors and conspiracy theories about the vaccine … have helped the country maintain its unenviable status,” recording 91 cases of the disease in 2011, Agence France-Presse reports. Most cases of the disease this year have been recorded in the Pashtun tribal areas in the northwest of the country, “where education is limited and deeply conservative values hold sway,” the news service writes, adding, “People in the area were already deeply distrustful of foreign intervention, and suspicions soared even further last year after the CIA used a hepatitis inoculation program as cover to try to find Osama bin Laden.” According to AFP, “[f]ighting between government troops and tribal militias in the northwest, as well the Taliban banning inoculations in protest at U.S. drone strikes, have also hampered efforts to fight the disease.” Health care workers are educating the public to build trust, and UNICEF is recruiting religious leaders to advocate for polio vaccination, the news service notes (Abdul, 9/29).
Political leaders, donor representatives, and medical experts on Thursday met on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly session “to celebrate [polio eradication] efforts that have already reduced the incidence of the crippling and potentially fatal disease by 99 percent around the globe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (9/27). “Saying a decisive moment has arrived in the quest to eradicate polio, world leaders vowed … to embrace a new approach that includes long-term funding commitments, greater accountability and a specific focus on the three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic,” the Globe and Mail writes (Picard, 9/27). “[E]verything hinges on stopping polio in a few districts in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said during an address at the event, the U.N. News Centre adds (9/27). Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “who is helping spearhead a global campaign to eradicate polio, said Thursday he hopes that by 2015 no child in the world will be paralyzed by the disease and by 2018 polio will be wiped out,” the Associated Press writes (Lederer, 9/27).
In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates writes about traveling to New York this week to deliver a speech to the U.N. on polio eradication, one of the top five global health priorities as described by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “New polio cases are the lowest they’ve ever been and there are currently just three countries, down from 125 in 1988, where polio is still endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan,” Gates notes. He adds, “[T]he world is coming together with the financial resources, the political commitment, and the innovation necessary to do something absolutely extraordinary, to protect every child everywhere from this preventable disease” (9/25).
UNICEF has released its 2012 partnership profiles, “short case studies which highlight specific partnership initiatives at global, regional and country levels” and “illustrate how partnerships have contributed to results, either the creation of innovation, policy advocacy, evidence generation, or provision of essential services,” according to UNICEF’s Partnerships webpage. Some of the organizations highlighted include the GAVI Alliance (.pdf), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (.pdf), and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (.pdf) (9/17).
“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said Nigeria was not on track in the effort to eradicate wild polio virus before the end of December this year,” Leadership/AllAfrica.com reports. Speaking at the 24th Expert Review Committee (ERC) Meeting on Polio Eradication in Abuja, Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, said Nigeria had the tools and capacity to turn back the increasing number of polio cases that pose a “real and growing danger to international public health,” the news service notes. Aylward “recommended eight major steps for polio eradication for the country, including the implementation of the new house-based micro planning and monitoring method,” refresher training for all personnel to emphasize the emergency status declared by the WHO, and the identification and immunization of missed children and those in insecure areas, among others, according to the news service. ERC Chair Tomori Oyewale “called on Nigerians to change their attitude to polio eradication to ensure the success of the fight against the virus,” the news service writes (9/11).
Pakistan Official Says Progress Made In Vaccinating Thousands Of Children Against Polio In Tribal Area
“Pakistan Tuesday claimed progress in vaccinating thousands of children against polio in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan which had been inaccessible due to unrest for about three years,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘Our target was to vaccinate up to 25,000 children in Bara and some 32,000 children in Tirah valley in Khyber and 70 percent success has been achieved,’ top social welfare officer for tribal areas Aftab Durrani told AFP,” the news service writes.
VOA News reports on global efforts to eradicate polio, writing, “Experts say with India now polio-free and the total number of cases at the lowest level ever, this is an opportunity to change history and eradicate the disease entirely.” “The oral polio vaccine has cut the number of polio cases worldwide by 99 percent since 1988,” but, “[f]or the past 10 years, … eliminating that last percent has remained a challenge,” the news service continues. “The three countries where polio is still endemic — Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — are conducting aggressive immunization campaigns to vaccinate more children against the disease,” VOA notes.
John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his “Africa in Transition” blog that “[t]he Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to 70 for 2012,” with most of the cases occurring in the predominantly Muslim north. “Despite efforts by the Nigerian government and the international community, polio is far from being eradicated in Nigeria,” he states and discusses challenges to fighting the disease in the country (8/30).