Ade Adepitan: Nigeria polio drive has been hit by mistrust of 'white medicine'

An article from The Guardian
August 19, 2013
Ade Adepitan: Nigeria polio drive has been hit by mistrust of 'white medicine'


August 20, 2013 -- Ade Adepitan, the British Paralympic medallist and TV presenter whose Channel 4 documentary about polio in Nigeria airs on Monday night, says he is shocked it is still an issue after he contracted the disease there 37 years ago.

"It is the only country in Africa where it is still endemic," he said. "Somalia, Sudan have been able to make progress despite all their problems."

Nigeria is one of only three countries, alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan, that have failed to eradicate polio. Last year, 122 cases of the virus were reported, and there have been 40 confirmed cases this year.

Most polio cases in Nigeria are found in the predominantly Muslim north. In 2011, more than 95% of all cases occurred in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara, the eight northern states where the disease is endemic.

Nigeria poses a significant risk to surrounding countries: in 2011, polio viruses originating from Nigeria were detected in five countries in west and central Africa. Despite dozens of vaccination campaigns over the years, only 65% of children in Borno, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe states have received four or more oral polio vaccine doses.

Vaccination campaigns have been dogged by rumours and conspiracy theories. In February, nine women who were vaccinating children against polio were shot dead in Kano, the biggest city in the north, apparently by Islamist militants, who claim the vaccines are part of a western plot to sterilise girls and wipe out the Muslim population.

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