The Dwindling of Polio Endemic Countries
By admin September 29, 2015

_85754341_aminu_umar_ahmedThe World Health Organization (WHO) has removed Nigeria, who along with Pakistan and Afghanistan accounted for 1,000 Global Poliomyelitis cases in 2006, from the Polio Endemic list.  WHO officials and officers from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are praising this historic milestone in Nigeria’s history and that of the worlds’. In 1988, 125 countries were classified as Polio Endemic, which meant they had at least one reported case of wild occurring Polio in their respective countries during the year. In 2015, this number has been reduced to 2 countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.

As this list continues to shrink, former endemic states strive to move from non-polio endemic to a polio free classification.  However, the pathway to achieving a sustainable polio-free status is afflicted with cultural and biological roadblocks. If we compare the progress of Nigeria and Cameroon, the difficulties in maintaining the non-endemic status, eventually leading towards eventual Polio Eradication become clearer.

Oral vaccination campaigns are instrumental to both Nigeria and Cameroon sustaining their non-endemic status. Both countries conducted extensive Oral Polio Vaccination campaigns for children. However, these campaigns have suffered challenges from their populace.  Nigeria’s campaign saw backlash from its northern citizens refusing to be vaccinated due to fears of sterilization for their sons. This backlash is believed to have resulted in the murders of nine polio vaccinators were killed in the northern state of Kano.

Similarly, Cameroon faced opposition from its citizens over the needs of the vaccine. 7 percent of Cameroonian children remain unvaccinated (compared to the 5% level designated by WHO). Their mothers argue that more Cameroonians die of poverty than Polio, so the need for the vaccine is superfluous compared to the immediate threat of poverty. This rationale is only exacerbated by the discovery of vaccination resilient polio pockets within the country. WHO still classifies Cameroon as possessing the wild active poliovirus, though it is classified as not exporting the virus.

In order for both countries to be classified as Polio-Free, they must go three years without any cases of wild active polio. The most recent country to receive this classification was India in 2014. However, experts warn that the proximity of the country to endemic states, along with poor sanitation & water purification methods could result in a re-emergence of Polio within India.  These three countries demonstrate that while strong campaigns and political will can achieve milestones against the prevalence of a disease, creating a lasting effect is not always so clear.


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