The Cabinet Secretary for Health (CS), Ms. Sicily Kariuki has called on the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member countries to work together to eradicate polio that continues to be a threat to the promotion of health in the region.
Speaking on Friday at Garissa University Grounds when she officially launched the five day Anti Polio Regional exercise that kicks off on Saturday, Kariuki said that despite the gains made globally in eradicating the polio virus countries within the horn of Africa have experienced repeated outbreak of polio.
The campaign brings together representatives from WHO, UNICEF and IGAD member states.
The CS said that massive movement across the porous borders in the region presents one of the most significant challenges to stopping polio virus transmission.
“Insecurity and constant conflicts in our region resulting in displacement of large populations continue to be a major contributing factor to the spread of the virus thus the risk of continued transmission,” the CS said.
She said under nutrition, low population immunity and displacement of persons was partly to blame for polio outbreak.
Kariuki said during the 2013 polio outbreak in Garissa County, 14 people were paralyzed resulting in two deaths adding that during the same period, a similar outbreak was taking place in Somalia with 105 confirmed cases.
“This clearly confirms that all countries within the region are closely intertwined and face similarly face polio threats,” she noted.
She said the Ministry with the support of partners plans to reach 2.8 million children in 12 high risk counties among them Garissa. Other counties are Wajir, Mandera, Nairobi, Lamu, Tana River, Meru, Kitui, Machakos, Isiolo, Kiambu and Kajiado. There will be two rounds of synchronized vaccination.
The Garissa governor, Ali Korane called for joint collaboration from member states in eradicating polio.
“Our county’s proximity to Somalia whose health sector collapsed due to persistent insecurity has in one way frustrating efforts to eradicate polio,” Korane said.
“The presence of Al-Shabaab in Somalia who are against polio vaccination has also hampered the exercise. That is why it is important that we work towards achieving lasting peace in Somalia,” he added.
The area Women Represantative, Ms. Annab Gure said there is need for all the relevant stakeholders to sustain the campaign and demystify the notion that the vaccine was part of a family planning campaign.
“It is unfortunate that our people especially in the rural areas still hold to the notion that polio was synonymous with family planning. This is however not true. I want to appeal to my fellow mothers to take their children under five for vaccination because it was safe and meant for the good of our people,” Gure said.
By Jacob Songok