The appearance of two cases of polio in northern Nigeria is an unmitigated tragedy. Anybody who has traveled in the region and seen firsthand the victims of paralysis caused by polio can but weep. And now there are two more. Victims often have no wheel-chairs and, as elsewhere, health care is rudimentary if it exists at all. The tragedy is only mitigated by the courage the victims show in carrying on, and in the support they receive from their families and communities.
Martins Ifijeh surveys ongoing immunization efforts and also analyzes the re-emergence of the disease in a thoughtful article in ThisDay. He notes that the effectiveness of immunization is reduced when children are malnourished, and malnourishment is endemic among the very large population of the internally displaced. He also highlights the need for the vaccine to be stored at a low temperature, hard to do in a war zone. He also cites Boko Haram hostility to immunization, which it characterizes as a “western plot.” Further, even in areas where Boko Haram no longer controls territory, security for health workers has not necessarily been re-established.
So, polio is yet another cost of Boko Haram.