It looks like efforts to eradicate polio have hit a snag in Nigeria, according to UNICEF.
Last year, there were only 21 cases of the paralyzing illness in the West African nation, after the country witnessed a shocking 338 cases in 2009, AFP reports. However, within recent months, they’ve seen a new surge in outbreaks, mainly in the North.
“As of at this month, 20 cases of wild polio virus were reported in six states,” Jacques Boyer, deputy head of the UN children’s fund for Nigeria told a gathering of local leaders in Kano, Nigeria, Tuesday. “It’s clear from the figures that we are beginning to lose some of the grounds covered in our polio eradication efforts.”
A decrease in vaccinations, likely due to a lack of medical facilities, is believed to be behind this recent uptick. However with surges in the past, 2003-2004 to be specific, some Muslim clerics in the Northern Kano state had alleged that vaccines were spiked in accordance with a U.S.-led conspiracy to eradicate the African population, the news service reports. Such theories led to an aggressive push by international groups to promote immunization, which in turn led to the state having only one recorded polio case last year and just five this year so far.
But this latest surge in the North could put the latest progress at risk.
"We have come too far in our fight against polio to contemplate a relapse,” Boyer said. “Complacency is probably the biggest danger that might jeopardize success in eradicating polio."
With the new cases in Nigeria, along with other reported outbreaks in 14 countries since the start of last year, the goal to have the highly contagious and incurable virus eradicated by 2012 appears to be in doubt, according to scientists from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, MSNBC reports.
Since 1988, polio cases worldwide have decreased by 99 percent, the scientists say, with only 1,000 cases reported last year.
(Photo: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye/Landov)