MOGADISHU – SOMALIA is making frantic efforts to curb the poliovirus that has left at least 16 children paralysed over the past three years.
An outbreak was first reported in 2017.
Dr Mohamed Ali Kamil, the outgoing World Health Organisation (WHO), Polio Team Lead for Somalia, said to sustain the immunity gains, the agency must implement a number of vaccination campaigns until the routine immunisation programme could reach every child.
“Somalia is extremely fragile and at high risk of becoming endemic for poliovirus if we do not maintain and support the polio infrastructure,” he said.
The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since March (this year) is hindering these efforts.
To date, Somalia has confirmed over 3 100 COVID-19 cases and 93 deaths.
At least 143 health workers have been identified with COVID-19 infection.
In April, Ibrahim Elmi Mohamed, a District Polio Officer, who spent 19 years striving for a polio-free Somalia, died of a COVID-19-related illness.
“It’s a hard situation, but we must not stop until we overcome both viruses,” Kamil said.
The two viruses have added to the 30 years of protracted conflict and insecurity endured by Somalis.
At least 5,2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. This is out of a population of over 15, 8 million.
In November 2019, widespread flooding brought further turmoil and danger to Somali families.
The secondary and tertiary health care is virtually non-existent outside of a few large cities. Health literacy is low.
Populations are also highly vulnerable to diseases like measles and cholera.