AFRICA/KENYA - Polio alert in the Horn of Africa: planned vaccination campaigns for millions of children

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Kisumu (Agenzia Fides) – Thanks to large-scale vaccination campaigns to millions of vulnerable children one is trying to limit the spread of polio in the Horn of Africa. Outbreaks have been reported in Kenya and Ethiopia, and the most serious epidemics in neighboring Somalia, with 183 confirmed cases from the beginning of the year to October. This is what emerges from the data of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This is the first outbreak in Somalia since 2007 and, to cope with the problem, between 20 and 26 October, 3 million and a half children under 10 years of age were vaccinated. Further campaigns are planned for the months of November and December. Health authorities fear that if the polio epidemic in Somalia is not immediately put under monitoring, global efforts to eliminate the disease once and for all could be compromised. According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), until 13 November this year, there have been 334 cases globally, compared to 187 in the same period in 2012. Vaccination campaigns are also planned in Ethiopia and Sudan. In South Sudan, there have been no cases of infection since June 2009, and there is great concern for South Kordofan and the Blue Nile States, where there is no access to humanitarian structures. In Kenya, where there have been 14 cases of polio, the lack of security on the border with Somalia is considered to be in part due to the spread of the disease. In fact, until the criminal gangs such as Al- Shabab continue to pose a threat, health professionals cannot reach the villages for fear of attacks. Of the 14 cases, 10 were reported in the Dadaab refugee camp, eastern Kenya, where there are about 400 thousand Somalis. The Kenyan Ministry of Health, in 2013, is planning the vaccination for about 8 million children under 5 years of age and in the 5 previous campaigns 5 million and a half were vaccinated. (AP) (Agenzia Fides 19/11/2013)