Jijiga September 2/2013 The 3rd polio vaccination campaign was launched in Somali State on Monday, to immunize 831,000 children under age five.
State health bureau deputy head, Abdifetah Mohamed on the occasion said over 5,860 health professionals and volunteers are involving in the week long campaign.
State has immunized over 831.4 million children against polio in a similar campaign carried out a month ago.
The State is immunizing children against polio fearing the recent outbreak of the virus in neighboring Somalia might spread to Ethiopia.
Despite having been eradicated in all but three countries of the world, there has been a worrying outbreak of polio in Somalia recently, raising fears of a new front in the battle against the disease.
In 2012, there were only 250 cases across the whole world, virtually all of which were in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but over the past three months over a hundred new cases have already been reported in Somalia.
Polio is a debilitating and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is currently no cure, but vaccination initiatives have helped to reduce the prevalence of the disease greatly over the past 30 years.
In 1988, 350,000 people, primarily young children, were being paralyzed by polio annually, but now wild strains of the virus only persist in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the disease remains endemic.
In Somalia, there had been no reported cases of polio for the past six years, but the outbreak, which has stemmed from an imported strain of the virus, has already crippled many of the children affected and is a threat to an estimated million more who have not been vaccinated.
Somalia is under particular threat from polio given that it has the second-lowest vaccinated coverage in the world.
With less than half of the population protected against the virus, UNICEF has warned that “the outbreak in Somalia, if not controlled quickly, could jeopardize global efforts to wipe out polio once and for all”.
Yet the outbreak of polio in the country is not just bad news for Somalia; it also threatens neighboring states in East Africa.
Evidence of polio now spreading beyond the borders of Somalia has emerged. Ten cases of the disease have also been reported in Dadaab, the Kenyan refugee camp complex that is host to around 400,000 people, many of whom are from Somalia.
The presence of a disease that is transmitted by person-to-person contact in such a densely populated area, especially one containing people who may be particularly vulnerable to infection, is a worrying development.