Somalilandsun — At least 118 cases of polio have been confirmed in the Horn of Africa region as the United Nations agencies battle to contain the outbreak of the wild polio virus in the region, a latest UN report said.
The report by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said some 105 cases of polio have been confirmed in Somalia, 12 in Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya and mostly recently one case was confirmed in Ethiopia.
“Since 2005, outbreaks of polio in the Horn of Africa have affected Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen as well as Somalia and Kenya,” OCHA said in its Humanitarian Bulletin received on Tuesday.
A two-year-old girl from Mogadishu became the first confirmed case of polio in Somalia in more than six years in May. As of July, the virus has paralyzed 95 children in Somalia which had been polio-free since March 2007.
The UN agencies have launched emergency vaccination campaigns to boost their low polio vaccination coverage in Somalia, which currently has the second lowest coverage in the world at 47 percent, after Equatorial Guinea.
Kenya, which was urged by the UN body to join the campaign against polio, has indicated that counties which are close to South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia have the highest risk because the cases reported in the country are mostly imported from there.
Cross-border meetings have been held to ensure coordination among Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, discussing population movements, micro-plans and vaccination at crossing points to prevent the virus from spreading, the agency said.
“A donors meeting is planed for the second week of September to provide current, new and potential donors with information on the outbreak and the current needs of the region,” OCHA said, warning the outbreak is likely to be “explosive, large of long duration” and spreading more quickly, necessitating “continued urgent and coordination joint action.”
A total of 12 large-scale supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) have been conducted across Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen and Somalia.
“SIAs are planned through the end of the year in all polio- affected areas and areas at high risk of importation. Kenya is currently conducting round four of seven planned vaccination campaigns for 2013. Round four targets 4.5 million persons in 127 districts,” the UN agency said.