from Africa in Transition

Polio in Nigeria

August 30, 2012

Blog Post

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria

Infectious Diseases

Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Religion

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to seventy for 2012. As with previously reported cases this year, these are all to be found in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria, in areas affected by Boko Haram.

A resurgence of polio in northern Nigeria is no surprise. Previous eradication efforts – even before Boko Haram became active – were compromised by a controversial episode involving pharmaceutical trails by a U.S. company. Later, and apparently unrelated, radical Islamic field preachers claimed that polio vaccination was a plot by the Nigerian government of President Obasanjo (a Christian) and the U.S. to limit Muslim births. The popular uproar was sufficient that several northern governors suspended polio vaccination for many months. Opposition was finally overcome through the offices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the procuring of the vaccine from an Islamic country, Malaysia.

But the popular suspicion in radical Islamic circles remained, and I suspect that it is being exploited by elements of Boko Haram to discredit the government of Goodluck Jonathan, also a Christian. Then, too, the breakdown of security in the North made it difficult to carry out a new vaccination campaign. Despite efforts by the Nigerian government and the international community, polio is far from being eradicated in Nigeria.

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