Polio numbers in Nigeria for 2013 are likely to be less than they were in 2012. Given the turmoil in northeastern Nigeria associated with the Boko Haram insurrection, this would seem to indicate real progress for the polio eradication program despite the insecurity of the region that the program operates in. However, the security situation in Nigeria, and elsewhere where polio is found, political, and religious obstacles continue to impede the eradication of the disease.
Stratfor, citing the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, states that by mid-November there were fifty-one reported cases of polio in Nigeria, with a month and a half still to run in 2013. The date of the most recent case in Nigeria was October 8, 2013. The total number of cases in 2012 was more than twice as high, at 122.
The three countries where polio is endemic are Pakistan (sixty-three cases to date in 2013), Nigeria, and Afghanistan (nine cases to date in 2013). The three account for a total of 123 cases out of a world-wide total of 341. Of the non-endemic countries, Somalia with 185 cases reported to date in 2013 had by far the largest case load. Syria had thirteen, Ethiopia six, and Kenya fourteen in 2013 to date.
In a further development, Nigerian media reported on November 21 that the Dangote Foundation (Nigeria) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are collaborating to strengthen the childhood immunization program, with the goal of eradicating polio from Nigeria by 2018.
In a sober assessment of polio progress, This Day cited a comment by a UNICEF and World Health Organization expert that West Africa and Nigeria continued to be at risk for an “explosive return of polio.” This Day observed that the principal barrier to vaccination in northeast Nigeria is violence. This Day’s assessment is that, “the key to ridding the country of this devastating disease is a return to routine immunization regime. As we ask for more intensified campaigns to kick out polio, there is also the need to return to the path of peaceful co-existence. The security agencies have a crucial role to play in this regard and so too do the religious and political leaders. It is evident that the campaigns to kick out polio cannot thrive in the midst of chaos.”
The eradication of polio in Nigeria remains hostage to politics and violence.