14 August 2017

Somalia: UN Declares Somalia Free of Polio

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) said it had not recorded any case of polio disease in Somalia in the last three years, declaring the country polio free.

The WHO said the country recorded the last case of polio in 2014 in the central part of the country but has since then remained free of the paralyzing disease.

The UN health agency, however, warned Somalia remained vulnerable, calling for continued vaccination campaign, Xinhua reported.

The head of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean, which covers Somalia, Mohamed Fiqi said that massive vaccination campaigns and commitment from government and international actors had ensured the polio virus did not recur in the Horn of Africa country.

"As the world edges closer to eradicating polio, keeping alert in countries that have high risk of polio importation like Somalia is more of priority than ever," Fiqi said.

"As we move forward, the polio programme in Somalia needs to continue to work to maintain and improve the level of population immunity against polio through target vaccination campaign and strengthening of the routine immunisation services and infrastructure," Fiqi added.

The declaration by WHO keeps Somalia outside the last group of countries which still record cases of polio in the world.

Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan are the remaining countries where polio is still being recorded. The WHO chief warned Somalia remains at risk of importation of the virus from these countries.

Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo praised efforts to rid his country of the polio disease which he noted had subjected many children into suffering.

"No cases were found for the past three years and no child was affected by this disease. Many of our children have suffered from polio for many years.

"To eradicate polio was a big success and it was collective effort and commitment by many young men and women who sacrificed their lives," Farmaajo noted.

The three year polio-free celebration comes amidst the worst outbreak of measles the country has seen in years.

Somalia is also still responding to an outbreak of acute watery diarrhoea/cholera, which began in January 2017. Polio systems and networks are being used in both interventions.

"Polio infrastructure has been critical in responding to these other serious outbreaks," said Fikri.

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