Press Release

Polio transmission ongoing in Somalia

22 July 2014

  • Galkayo, Somalia, 22 July 2014 – Despite an ongoing intensive vaccination campaign, four new cases of polio have been confirmed in Somalia this year bringing the total number of those affected since the outbreak began in May 2013 to 198 – most of them children. UNICEF and WHO have warned that unless all children are vaccinated, the number of those affected will continue to rise.

The warning came at the start of the latest vaccination campaign in Puntland, north east Somalia, where all of this year’s cases were discovered in the remote Jariban district in Mudug region. Three of them are children under 10 years old and an adult aged 29 who subsequently died. None of them had been vaccinated against polio before. This current round of vaccinations will run until 25 July and will target close to half a million children under the age of 10 years in the outbreak area and eight surrounding districts.

“Responding to the polio outbreak is one of the top priorities of the UN and the humanitarian community at large,” said the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Philippe Lazzarini. “We need to continue supporting the Somali health authorities to achieve a polio-free Somalia.”

In May 2013, the first case of polio in six years was discovered in the country’s capital Mogadishu. At the time it was estimated that over half a million children under five living in the inaccessible areas had not been vaccinated.

“Somalia has made a lot of progress towards stopping polio transmission, with the support of UNICEF and WHO, but it needs the final push to be polio-free once again,” said Dr Ghulam Popal, WHO Somalia Representative who is in Galkayo to oversee the latest campaign implementation.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, more than 1.5 million children under five have been vaccinated along with 5.5 million over five years, including adults, in the accessible areas.

“It is a tragedy that so many Somali children have been paralysed by this virus and their lives ruined – when the vaccination is freely available,” said Sikander Khan, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Polio is highly infectious and every child who has not been properly vaccinated against polio is at risk from paralysis or even death.”

The polio virus can be quickly transmitted through water or food contaminated with human waste from an infected person. Proper sanitation is one way to prevent it spreading. There is no cure for polio and the vaccine – which is just two drops in the mouth - is safe, effective and prevents paralysis. Children should be vaccinated several times to ensure they are protected for life and adults too can carry the virus.

Read the press release in Somali


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