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WHO declares Somalia polio free in three years, urges sustained vaccination campaigns

Somali President Mohamed Farmaajo (R) receives polio free certification from Eastern Mediterranean WHO chief Dr. Mohamed Fiqi August 13, 2017 in Mogadishu. Photo: Goobjoog News

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Somalia free of polio for the third year running but warned the country must remain alert as it remains prone to polio virus importation.

WHO Eastern Mediterranean head Dr. Mohamed Fiqi declared today in Mogadishu the country had gone without any cases of polio since the last reported case in 2014. He noted sustained vaccination campaigns and commitment by state and non-state actors had kept the polio virus at bay.

“Today we celebrate a major milestone, however we must remember our work is not yet finished. As the world edges closer to eradicating polio, keeping alert in countries that have high risk of polio importation like Somalia is more of priority than ever,” said Dr. Fiqi.

Speaking at the same event, President Mohamed Farmaajo hailed the efforts of various stakeholders in eradicating the polio virus but also called for continued vaccination campaigns urging parents to ensure all their children are vaccinated.

“It’s an honour for me to be part of this historic occasion to celebrate and to declare today Somalia is without polio. In other words no cases were found for the past three year and no child was affected by this disease,” President Farmaajo said.

The President said the eradication of polio was a big success in Somalia which involved the ‘collective efforts and commitments by many young men and women who sacrificed their lives.’

Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the last countries in the world which still report cases of polio and the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Peter de Clerq noted, ‘so long as cases still exist, many countries in WHO’s eastern Mediterranean region including Somalia will remain at risk of the virus returning.”

“It has been a hard fought battle. Since then. The absence of cases of polio today is a testament to the leadership commitment and hard work of the government and people of Somalia, the dedication of WHO staff and the effective support of many partners in this country,” de Clerq added.

Somalia recorded the last case of polio in 2014 in Hobyo in the central part of the country. The WHO said it has also scaled up efforts to carry out vaccination in hard to reach areas.

Peter de Clerq said more than 74 million vaccine doses against polio have administered to children under five years of age in Somalia since 2013.