Cross-border collaboration urged to curb polio in Horn of Africa

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Horn of Africa states to increase collaboration in surveillance in order to eradicate cross-border transmission of Polio.

WHO Kenya Country Representative Custodia Mandlhate told a regional health forum in Nairobi that insecurity and drought conditions have caused movement of people across the borders.

“So governments should improve surveillance at the border points to ensure that the virus is not transmitted across borders,” Mandlhate said during the 14th Horn of Africa Technical Advisory Group Meeting.

The five-day event brought health experts and policy makers from the Horn of Africa to review the progress made so far to interrupt polio virus transmission.

The forum also discussed the progress achieved so far in implementing the requirements of the 2013-2018 polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan. Horn of Africa nations include Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Eritrea, Tanzania and Uganda.

The region hosts a large number of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Mandlhate said that no Horn of Africa region has reported a case of polio this year.

“The region is on track to eradicate the polio virus by end of 2019. However regional governments should not be complacent but should improve surveillance and routine vaccinations of children,” she added.

The WHO official said that population immunity will be improved through strong routine immunization services and good quality polio especially in high risk areas and populations to prevent an outbreak or stop transmission.

Currently only two countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan still remain polio endemic since Nigeria was removed from the list of polio endemic countries in 2015.

The WHO said that universal vaccination will help to eliminate the circulation of the virus.

Mandlhate said that governments should take the lead in terms of financing for polio eradication because funds from international donors is set to reduce.