Nairobi — World Health Organization’s Polio Technical Advisory Group (TAG) is this week meeting in Nairobi to evaluate progress made in ending outbreaks of polio-virus in Kenya and Somalia.
In a three-day conference beginning on Tuesday, the 18th TAG will also review Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, South Sudan, Yemen, and Sudan to establish the readiness of respective countries to tackle a polio outbreak.
A polio outbreak in Somalia last year resulted into the paralysis of several children in the Horn of Africa nation, a situation the global health agency wants to bring under control.
Some parts of Kenya have also been reported to be in danger after a vaccine-derived polio virus was traced in a sewage water sample in April last year.
The virus found in Eastleigh was linked to polio-virus samples tested in Mogadishu in October-November last year, and January this year.
“The emergence of the vaccine-derived polio virus in southern Somalia in 2017 and in the informal settlements of Nairobi in Eastleigh in 2018 is a confirmation that the polio threat is real and the virus continues to circulate undetected in the sub-region”, WHO Representative Dr Rudi Eggers stated.
The Ministry of Health is currently undertaking a polio campaign covering 12 high risk counties targeting 2.8 million children aged 5 years and below.
In Nairobi alone, 800,000 children have been targeted in a previous vaccination campaign in July.
2.5 million children were vaccinated during the campaign in twelve counties.
Following the discovery of the polio-virus at in Eastleigh, the government upscaled vigilance to deter an outbreak of polio boarder surveillance and an elaborate immunization programme targeting Nairobi though a Rapid Results Initiative that lasted 100 days.
Kenya also participated in a synchronized polio campaign with Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Somalia, in September.
While lobbying for the joint effort, Eggers said a united approach was critical to suppressing polio.
“It also emphasizes the importance of population movements between the countries and the need to address polio eradication activities as a sub-region, not only in a single country like Kenya,” the regional WHO chief said.
Eggers noted progress made in fighting cholera with the number of children paralyzed as a result of cholera declining from 350,000 annually in 1988 to only 22 in 2017.