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WHO confirms 3rd Polio case in Nigeria


A health worker sails out for vaccination in a hard-to-reach community:  Reaching every child in areas held by Boko Haram in Borno state is now a challenge as polio resurfaces in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization has confirmed a third case of polio in Nigeria, Rotary Club said Monday: a crippled toddler found in an area newly liberated from Boko Haram Islamic extremists.

Two cases were discovered last month among refugees from areas recently won back by Nigeria’s military from Boko Haram in what is seen as a major upset in the global war against polio.

Rotary Club’s field coordinator, Aminu Muhammad, told The Associated Press the new case was found in Monguno local government area. The others were farther south in Jere and Gwoza. All are in Borno state.

Rotary is participating in a new emergency immunization drive that vaccinated more than 1.5 million children last week in Borno, where WHO has said the virus has been circulating undetected for five years and where Boko Haram began its Islamic uprising in 2009.

The campaign is to spread across the country, with a plan to reach 25 million children before the end of the year.

But the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has warned that about 1 million children are in areas too dangerous to access.

Nigeria’s military has helped with the vaccination drive, which included logistics and other aid from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the United Nations and Britain’s Save the Children as well as government health workers. Military helicopters flew vaccines into places too dangerous to reach by road, and truckloads of troops and armoured cars escorted vaccinators elsewhere.

Muhammad said they were using “hit and run” tactics to reach kids in areas where Boko Haram is present. A map used in the vaccination campaign however  shows almost all of Borno state is only “partially accessible,” with four northern areas “inaccessible” and only the extreme south “accessible.”

“We cannot deny the connection between conflict and the continued threat of polio. The two new cases mean children across the Lake Chad region are now at particular risk. With our partners, we will not stop until we reach every child with polio vaccination,” UNICEF Polio Eradication Director, Reza Hossaini had commented when the first two cases were reported.

Both WHO and UNICEF had expressed deep sympathy over the detection of the new cases after more than two years without wild poliovirus.

As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, but the country has made significant strides, recently marking two years without a case on 24 July 2016.

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