WHO, Islamic Leaders Summit To Stop Polio Worker Attacks

Courtesy Of Channel Television:
Top World Health Organisation officials and Islamic leaders will meet in Egypt next week in an effort to stop attacks on polio workers, which are hampering the eradication of the virus in some countries with large Muslim populations.
“Shooting health workers who are protecting kids from this crippling disease is against the Koran and everything Islam stands for,” WHO’s Assistant Director-General Bruce Aylward told Reuters in Canberra said on Friday.

Gunmen in Pakistan and Nigeria have killed more than 20 health workers in the past three months in a series of attacks linked to a backlash against the immunization program against the crippling virus.

“Muslim leaders have been great advocates of immunization and generally the support has always been there. In Cairo, we are meeting senior Islamic leaders to get a sense of what we can do, and ask them how can you help us,” said Aylward.

The WHO has successfully eliminated polio from most nations after a 25-year campaign, but the crippling condition remains endemic in three nations, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, where some influential Muslim leaders have opposed the program as a conspiracy of western medicine.

WHO remains on target to eradicate polio globally by 2018, Aylward said, despite a violent backlash from militant groups in Pakistan and Nigeria.

But there are also worrying signs of persistence, with the polio virus found in sewers in Cairo in January, with the type linked to the indigenous strain in Pakistan. Egypt has not had a case of polio since 2004.

Aylward said while the violence has forced the WHO to revise is approach to immunizations in both Pakistan and Nigeria.

“The goal is to put tools in the hands of the communities to immunize their own kids,” Aylward said.

“The overall risks (of contracting polio) are getting smaller, because we are finally getting into some of these difficult places,” he said.

Since 1988, the WHO has cut the number of global polio cases from 350,000 to just 225 in 2012, with India declared polio free in January 2012.

Polio Eradication in Kano State – Kwankwaso fires dozens of officials handling Polio immunization

Another news piece on Polio courtesy of Daily Trust Newspaper:
Dozens of officials handling polio immunization in Kano State have been fired because they were using the exercise as a “money-making venture”, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has said.
Speaking on Saturday during the launch of a new phase of the polio immunisation exercise, the governor said he directed the replacement of all managerial officers because they were found to be engaged in corruption thereby retarding the anti-polio campaign.
Kwankwaso did not give a specific number of the officials affected, but he said they were of the level of director downwards at the state level as well as immunisation officers of the 44 local government areas.
Polio is surging in parts of the North, after years of efforts to eradicate it appeared to be working. Stakeholders in the campaign, which receives international donor funding, last year set 2013 as end date for the disease.
But experts are skeptical of this dateline, as polio stages a comeback in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi and other states in the North.
Kwankwaso said he was worried that efforts to eradicate polio were not yielding the desired success.
He said there were still pockets of rejection of the polio vaccine in parts of the state, and warned that his administration will take measures to enforce the immunisation to save vulnerable children.
Nigeria is among the only three polio-endemic nations in the world, the others being Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Years of campaign to eradicate the disease in Nigeria were sabotaged by suspicion of vaccine contamination in 2004, which led to massive boycott of immunisation.
The rejections have waned in many places, and over the past two years stakeholders were upbeat on the eradication process.
But this year has seen many new infections in several states of the North.