Category Archives: Global Disability

Pakistan: Unsafe drinking water causes disability among children worldwide

9 April 2014 KARACHI:

Toxically germ-infested unsafe drinking water is causing different form of disability among children globally, mainly caused by teratogens. 

The excessive use of medication and consuming polluted water results in the development of abnormal cell tissue in unborn as well as newly born babies particularly during foetal growth, yielding a multiplex of physiochemical defects in the foetus. Improper and untreated disposal of sanitary water and untreated industrial waste is resulting in contamination of sub soil water threatening the nature. 

Principal Investigators of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Sector’s Academic Alliance for Subsoil Water Toxicity Research Initiative Prof Qadhi Aurangzeb Al Hafi and Pro-Vice Chancellor of Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Prof M Umar Farooq were of the view this was the first time Pakistani researchers’ study has been recognised at United Nations (UN) and Pakistan takes the historic edge of launching the first ever model of Terato-kinetc Research in the recorded history of medical sciences.The groundbreaking research document has been primed for over 1,700 international esteemed universities of the globe, in accordance with the UN mandates and conventions on the subject. 

The first categorical research model was demonstrated at Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan in continuum of the multi academia polygonal scientific colloquia the UN ‘International Observance Day for Disability’, at Dow University of Health Sciences Karachi followed by its academic sessions and scientific symposia at Punjab University and Higher Education Commission of Pakistan. The multi-academic colloquia consist of 9 scientific orientations, 17 confluences, 10 symposia and 19 demonstrations worldwide. 

[Courtesy of Daily Time]

Somalia: Polio Outbreak Thwarts Global Eradication Effort

The global community came tantalizingly close earlier this year to ridding the world of polio. But then in May, the eradication effort took a powerful blow. The virus turned up again in the Horn of Africa, first in Somalia.

The Banadir region of Somalia, which includes a Mogadishu refugee camp, is thought to be the so-called “engine” of the Horn of Africa polio outbreak.

In June, three-year-old Mohamed Naasir became ill. His mother, Khadija Abdullahi Adam, said soon after one leg became permanently disabled.

“My son was fine, but he started having a high fever which lasted for almost four days,” she explained. “I gave him medicine, but there was no change. The following morning he said to me ‘Mom, I can’t stand up.'”

The virus has spread at a rapid pace, triggering massive vaccination efforts.

Earlier in 2013, polio was confined to three so-called “endemic countries” — Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan — where the virus has never been snuffed out. Combined there were fewer than 100 cases in those three countries.

Since the virus re-emerged in the Horn of Africa, there have been at least 160 polio cases in Somalia alone, and the virus has spread to Kenya and Ethiopia.

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Children with Disabilities Report launched by UNICEF

Download  - Download the report30 May 2013

Entitled Children with Disabilities, the report examines the discrimination and deprivations that these children  Children with Disabilities and their families confront. It describes the progress that is being made, albeit unevenly, in ensuring that children with disabilities have the fair access to services and opportunities that is their right. And it urges governments, their international partners, civil society, and employers to take concrete steps to advance the cause of inclusion – as a matter of equity and for the benefit of all.

In order to achieve this goal, international agencies and donors and their national and local partners should include children with disabilities in the objectives, targets and monitoring indicators of all development programmes.

Exclusion is often the consequence of invisibility. Few countries have reliable information on how many of their citizens are children with disabilities, what disabilities they have or how these disabilities affect their lives. As a result, few are capable of knowing what types and amounts of support these children and their families need – much less how best to respond. One of the report’s chapters is therefore devoted to exploring challenges, progress and opportunities in the area of data collection and analysis.

The report also contains a series of personal essays by young people with disabilities and some of the people who work with children and adolescents with disabilities – among them, parents, caregivers and advocates.

It is our hope that this report will inform the dialogue and nurture the action that is necessary to create a world in which children with disabilities enjoy their rights on a par with other children, even in the most remote settings and the most deprived circumstances.

[Courtesy of UNICEF]

Nigeria polio: Immunising the vaccine fears

Usman Al Hassan and his children, including on his lap Abubarkar who contracted polio in 2013, on their home in the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja

Two-year-old Abubarkar Al Hassan has the unfortunate tag of being Nigeria’s first polio victim of 2013.

“It’s quite upsetting to see that my son cannot play with his friends when they come here,” says his father Usman Al Hassan, who lives on the outskirts of Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

“He cannot move unless someone carries him. This makes him cry.”

As Mr Al Hassan strokes his son’s legs, some of his daughters sit around and one of his two wives prepares a meal in a tiny kitchen off the courtyard.

“I have 14 children and 13 of them are vaccinated; it is very unfortunate that when the vaccinators came around this area they missed my house and my son was not vaccinated,” he says, looking at his son who is sitting on his lap.

In the long winding alleys of this community, houses are packed close together.

Open gutters like streams run like central veins carrying household waste water from homes.

Passers-by leap over them to avoid the dirty greyish sludge.

Nigeria has been making some strides in the battle against the polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, but the task has been slow and fraught with challenges.

The West African nation is only one of three countries where polio is endemic – Afghanistan and Pakistan being the other two.

Journalists Arrested

Last year, 122 cases of the virus were reported and the government is hoping to keep the numbers down this year.

“We still continue to miss too many children. In a campaign where you aim to reach 32 million children house-to-house there are number of challenges,” says Melissa Corkum spokesperson for the UN children agency’s polio campaign in Nigeria.

“In Nigeria there are a lot of nomadic populations on the move… there is no fixed address where you can knock on their door during the campaign,” she says.

“This leads to many children being… missed.”

Together with the government of Nigeria, Unicef is running nationwide immunisation campaigns.

Polio cases in Nigeria are mostly found in the mainly Muslim north of the country.

In the past few months there have been violent attacks against health workers believed to be connected with polio vaccination drives.

In the most recent attack nine female health workers killed in Kano state.

It is possible that these attacks were the result of religious and political leaders who have opposed the vaccine, saying it is a Western plot to sterilise Nigerian Muslims.

Suspicions about vaccination programmes were fuelled in part by the Pfizer scandal in 1996 when the US drugs firm used an experimental drug during a meningitis outbreak in Kano. Eleven children died and dozens became disabled as a result.

In 2003, these fears and conspiracy theories led to the suspension of vaccination campaigns in Kano, leading to a high number of children contracting the disease.

Then earlier this year, a Muslim cleric and two journalists from Kano were arrested for broadcasting a report saying the vaccines were not safe.

Not all religious leaders are of this school of thought and some regret the harm caused by their colleagues.

“The problem was caused by those who were preaching against it,” says Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, the Emir of Anka in the northern-western state of Zamfara.

‘Attitudes Changing’

He blames the slow response by the government to the statements.

“They allowed them to have a field day before the intervention, and you know it’s difficult to repair damage,” the emir said.

He and other traditional rulers in the area have been trying to counter criticism of the vaccine.

During the last polio campaign in this area, a father refused to have his child immunised.

He was brought to the emir who convinced him to immunise his child.

However the talk of polio remains a very sensitive subject and many in these communities shy away from talking about refusing immunisation.

But the Nigerian government says they are making strides in reducing suspicion among vulnerable communities.

“People are becoming more aware and are realising that in fact the vaccine is safe, it’s efficacious, and that other parts of the world have actually used it to eradicate this disease,” says Dr Ali Pate, Nigeria’s junior minister of health who also heads the presidential campaign against polio.

“This [is a] collective effort. For the first time, you have the entire global community focusing on a single disease, after smallpox, to eradicate.”

Part of the government campaign has involved community mobilisation workers who talk to people about the benefits of the vaccine.

In the case of Abubarkar, his contracting polio has had a positive effect on his neighbours.

“People are aware, now they know that the disease is real,” says Yakubu Yahaya, a social mobilisation officer.

He has in the past had difficulties convincing the people in that community that polio as a disease was a reality.

“They were saying it is either politics or religion or because they want to make their children infertile,” he says.

“So they are really now ready to comply with all the vaccinators.”

For Abubarkar and his father, the lesson learnt has been a harsh one.

“I do not blame the vaccinators for missing my son, what has happened was God’s will,” says Mr Al Hassan.

“At least because of him, others can now take this seriously and immunise their children.”

Those working on the government’s drive against polio, will also be hoping that lessons can be learnt and they can indeed make strides towards eradicating the disease by 2014.

[Courtesy of BBC News]


165 million children under the age of five globally malnourished.

Hunger kills more people worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, and children are the most vulnerable. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 104 million children around the world are undernourished and 175.5 million suffer from stunted growth because their bodies do not have enough nutrients. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases account for 35 percent (3.1 million) of the 8.8 million deaths of children younger than five each year. Malnutrition is a complex disease that can be caused by lack of adequate food, illness, and poor caring practices – but it is preventable and curable.

Stunting can lead to irreversible brain and body damage in children, making them more susceptible to illness and more likely to fall behind in school. Based on UNICEF’s report, IRIN has put together a round-up of the nutrition situations in six East and Central African countries that are among 24 countries with the largest burden and highest prevalence of stunting.

Burundi: Under-five mortality in this small central African country dropped from 183 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 139 per 1,000 live births in 2012. This is far short of the 63 deaths per 1,000 live births necessary for the country to achieve UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4, which aims to reduce child mortality by two-thirds by 2015. An estimated 58 percent of children under age five are stunted, compared with 56 percent in 1987, according to demographic and health surveys from those years.

According to the UNICEF report, Burundi has made “no progress” on MDG 1, which aims to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.

Central African Republic (CAR): An estimated 28 percent of under-five deaths in CAR occur within the first month of a child’s life; the biggest killers of children under five are malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. The percentage of children under age five who are stunted has changed little since 1995, standing at 41 percent in 2010, as has the percentage of children who are underweight, which has remained at about 24 percent for the last 18 years.

There has, however, been significant progress in the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding their infants. In 2010, 34 percent of infants under six months old were breastfed, compared to just 3 percent in 1995. According to UNICEF, infants who are not breastfed in the first six months of life are “more than 14 times more likely to die from all causes than an exclusively breastfed infant”.

Democratic Republic of Congo: Africa’s second-largest country bears 3 percent of the global stunting burden, with 43 percent of children under age five suffering from stunting and 24 percent being underweight. Stunting is significantly higher (47 percent) in rural areas than it is in urban areas (34 percent).

The percentage of children who are underweight dropped from 34 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2010. DRC’s progress towards MDG 1 is described as “insufficient”.

Ethiopia: The Horn of Africa nation, which bears 3 percent of the global stunting burden, has seen a steep drop in stunting levels, from an estimated 57 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2011. The percentage of underweight under-fives has also dropped significantly, from 42 percent in 2000 to 29 percent in 2011. Between 2000 and 2011, under-five mortality was cut from 139 deaths per 1,000 live births to 77 per 1,000 live births – within striking distance of its MDG 4 target of 66 per 1,000.

A national nutrition programme launched in 2008 has been key to reducing national food insecurity, a major cause of stunting. The country’s health service extension programme has also played a role in bringing nutritional interventions to villages.

Rwanda: Community interventions – such as kitchen gardens and increasing the availability of livestock, as well as measures to boost healthy infant feeding practices like exclusive breastfeeding and the provision of nutritional supplements – saw the percentage of underweight under-fives in Rwanda drop from 20 percent in 2000 to 11 percent in 2010. Enhanced data collection and analysis has also enabled the government to improve its planning and monitoring of child malnutrition.

The report describes the country as “on track” to meet MDG 1.

Tanzania: Bearing 2 percent of the world’s stunting burden, Tanzania has made significant strides in improving child nutrition. An estimated 50 percent of infants under six months old were breastfed in 2010, compared to 23 percent in 1992. The country has also brought under-five stunting levels down from 50 percent in 1992 to 42 percent in 2010, but continues to suffer significantly higher stunting in rural children (45 percent) compared to urban children (39 percent).

Tanzania’s under-five mortality rate dropped from 158 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 68 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, putting it close to its MDG 4 target of 53 deaths per 1,000 live births. UNICEF’s report says the country is “on track” to meet its MDG 1 targets.

[Courtesy of IRIN]

TB vaccines – Update


8 April -As researchers consider who might benefit most from the next wave of tuberculosis (TB) vaccines, some argue that we’re not doing enough with the vaccine we already have.

The disappointing results of the first infant TB vaccine tested for efficacy in 40 years were published in February 2013, but new research suggests that while babies might be easier to reach, given existing childhood vaccination programmes, new vaccines will be more cost-effective if geared towards teens and adults.

The findings by the London School of Tropical Medicine are based on mathematical modelling that compared the cost-effectiveness of potential TB vaccines in the top 22 countries with the highest burden of TB, as listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), including South Africa, India and China, which account for 82 percent of all TB cases globally.

Dr Gwen Knight and colleagues used information like the number of new TB cases recorded annually, population projections, and TB mortality. Where available, they also factored in TB treatment and vaccine delivery costs. Finally, they created various scenarios based on projections of, for instance, how well a future vaccine might protect people from active TB, and how long this protection would last.

Knight’s preliminary results were presented at the TB Vaccines Third Global Forum in Cape Town. They indicate that in most scenarios, TB vaccines given to teens and adults were about seven times cheaper than those administered to infants. The most cost-effective TB vaccine would be designed for adults and teens, and would confer 80 percent protection on recipients – a high level of protection compared to most vaccines today.

The options in terms of cost-effectiveness

The cost per Disability Adjusted Life Year (DALY) for a vaccine for adults and teens could be as little as 85 US cents, making it comparable to the lowest prices for the rotavirus and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
Vaccines for older people were modelled as much more effective in reducing TB cases, with deaths occurring at an infection level largely determined by the transmission dynamics within the group. For example, a vaccine offering life-long protection against active TB would avert almost eight times as many new cases as a TB vaccine given to babies.

The model may be important in helping researchers prioritize TB vaccine candidates and selecting groups to include in future clinical trials. “Previous modelling has shown that the global TB burden is unlikely to be controlled without new TB vaccines,” Knight told IRIN. “What we didn’t know is whether these vaccines would be economically valid, and what type of vaccine should be an economic priority in relation to others.”

In the absence of a TB vaccine, Knight and her team projected that as many as 19 million people would die from the disease between 2024 and 2050.

Making the most of what we have

The world relies on the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) TB vaccine, developed almost 100 years ago. Given at birth, BCG’s protective effect wanes as children grow to adulthood, but the vaccine has seldom been considered a candidate for global adult or teen vaccination programmes after poor results in trials.

Now there are growing moves in the vaccine community to move away from approaches based solely on infant immunization and to begin developing policies on immunizing adolescents and adults. Adolescents may also be a prime target for re-vaccination with the BCG TB vaccine, according to Christopher Dye, director of health information in the Office of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases at WHO.

Dye says the world could do more with the only available TB vaccine in its arsenal. Citing examples from the United Kingdom and Norway, he presented instances in which adult BCG vaccination campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s had not only shown the vaccine to be as much as 80 percent protective, but that it had also reduced new TB cases by 20 percent.

“If those results were obtained today with a TB vaccine, they would be the subject of worldwide acclaim, and they form the basis of my claim that we don’t do enough with BCG,” he told IRIN.

In their search for a cure-all for TB epidemics, policymakers at the time may have dismissed results too readily. “The interpretation was pretty pessimistic,” he said. “In my reading, this was a search for a panacea and when that was not the result obtained, the results were pushed aside.” Disappointing results from India and Malawi could be explained by the presence of other tropical bacterial infections that could reduce BCG’s effectiveness.

Rethinking vaccines, rethinking TB control

Vaccinating teens and adults might also make sense in places like South Africa, where data collected in the Cape Town area in 2010 shows that people between the ages of 16 and 35 experience elevated risks of TB infection when compared to children and older adults.

“Children between the ages of five and ten are extremely resistant to developing active TB, but then become at risk when they move into adolescence,” Dye told IRIN. “Where possible, they need to be re-protected.”

He said adolescent BCG vaccination could easily be added to existing campaigns in countries where girls and, in some instances, boys, are vaccinated against HPV before they become sexually active.

Using mathematical models, Dye proposed that repeated mass vaccination campaigns to protect people as infants, and again as teens or young adults, could cut the annual number of new TB cases in South Africa by 50 percent over a 30-year period. In combination with improved case management and preventative TB therapy for people living with HIV, the models projected that revaccination with BCG could cut TB incidence by more than 90 percent by 2050.

“With all of these intense efforts put into TB control through treatment, the impact at the clinical level has been profound, but the trajectory of the TB epidemic has been [more or less flat],” he told IRIN. “It’s clear from analysis that while drugs have had a clinical impact, they have failed to control the epidemic – that’s why we need vaccines and other tools.”

[Courtesy of IRIN]

Roots of polio vaccine suspicion

5 April 2013 – For years, polio vaccination has faced strong resistance within conservative Islamic communities in northern Nigeria, largely due to a deep distrust of the West, persistent rumours that the vaccine is harmful, and the house-to-house approach taken by immunization campaigners, which many saw as intrusive. 

Over recent years, polio campaigners have changed their methods to try to win over reluctant community members and religious leaders – to mixed effect. In February of this year, 10 polio vaccinators were killed in the northern city of Kano by anti-western Boko Haram militants, the latest setback to efforts to eradicate the virus from Nigeria. 

The country is one of only three where polio is still endemic. In 2012, Nigeria recorded 122 cases – over half of the global total that year. 

IRIN spoke to residents, imams and health workers in Kano State to discuss the roots of ongoing vaccine suspicion. 


Sheikh Nasir Muhammed Nasir, imam of Fagge Juma’at Mosque, the largest in Kano, is an advocate of polio immunization. 

“There is nothing wrong with the polio vaccine. The major reason why people reject it is the deep-seated suspicion they harbour against the West, particularly the United States due to its foreign policies in the Muslim world, especially the war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. 

“The US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan – which caused deaths and destruction – is seen by many Muslims here as a war on their brethren. They wonder how the same countries responsible for this colossal carnage can now turn and save lives elsewhere. To them, it doesn’t make any sense that you offer to save my children from a crippling disease yet are killing my brothers,” said Nasir. 

Mamman Nababa, a father of three in Kano, said: “I can’t understand how the West will spend millions of dollars in providing medication against polio for our children while they systematically killed 500,000 Muslim children in Iraq by imposing an embargo that denied them access to basic medicines. 

“They are doing the same in Iran, where they imposed sanctions that make drugs scarce. It doesn’t make sense to kill my brother’s child by denying him life-saving drugs and then expect me to believe that you want to save my child from polio for free.”

Residents also expressed scepticism of the focus on polio, saying other diseases should be given priority. 

“How could I be so naive as to allow my children to be given polio drops by people who go door-to-door giving the vaccine free while the government has failed to provide medication for the most urgent diseases affecting us, such as malaria and typhoid?” said one Kano resident. 


For years there has been suspicion that the polio vaccine is laced with infertility hormones as part of a US-led plot to reduce the Muslim population. The Kano State government suspended polio immunization between September 2003 and November 2004 following the spread of such rumours by some Muslim clerics. The suspension led to an unprecedented number of infections and transmission of the virus to 17 countries that had been polio-free. 

Kano resident Zulaihatu Mahmud says most people understand polio is caused by a virus, but even so, she and others fear the vaccine could be harmful: “Nobody wants their child to be crippled by polio, and nobody wants her child to be sterile, either.” 

In 2003, to address these concerns, the Kano State government and federal government set up committees of doctors and clerics to test the polio vaccine. Following trials in Nigeria, South Africa and Indonesia, they declared the vaccine safe. 

However, they also confirmed the presence of traces of two sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone – that are used in contraceptive medicine, which reinforced the sterility rumours in some communities. 

Sadiq Wali, a professor of medicine who was involved in the committee, explained that the vaccine is developed in a culture made of monkey kidney, which contains the two hormones. Since hormones are highly water-soluble, traces are bound to be found in the vaccine, but they are too minute to have a contraceptive impact, he said. The amounts are so infinitesimal that special equipment is needed to detect them. 

Lingering anti-colonial sentiment 

Much of the long standing distrust of Western influence among northern Nigerians is linked to the British colonial occupation and its dealings with the Islamic caliphates that had ruled the north, explained Aminu Ahmed Tudun-Wada, head of the Kano State Polio Victims Trust Association. 

“Almost a century after the introduction of Western education, there are still parents who don’t enrol their children in school because they believe it is a ploy to convert them to Christianity, and the suspicion has its roots in the British conquest. It is the same sentiment playing out with the polio vaccine,” he said. 

Several people in the north referred to the introduction of cigarettes to Nigeria by the British 50 years ago. Kano tobacconist Habu Iro and several residents told IRIN that in the 1950s, when people bought cigarettes, they would find money in the packet. The amount included was gradually reduced as people became addicted. 

“We now know what [the] cigarette does to human health. The white man will never give anything for free. It is the same thing with [the] polio vaccine. They are hiding something,” 73-year-old Kano resident Dije Umar said. 

Changing approaches 

Early polio campaigners’ approaches were also seen as too insistent, combining radio advertisements, community workshops and teams of health workers going door to door, according to a polio expert with an international agency who asked to remain anonymous. 

But because most inoculations take place in health clinics or hospitals, many families did not trust health workers arriving at their doorsteps. 

One polio expert, who wished to remain anonymous, called initial campaigns “aggressive”. “They… sent a wrong signal to parents. We didn’t take account of the social dynamics then,” he said, referring to the need for more efforts to get communities on board. 

Before 2005, polio campaigners partnered only with political and health authorities. They later learned to work closely with community and religious leaders. Most northern states have since formed polio immunization task forces with village and religious leaders as members. 

The results were largely positive, with greater community acceptance and an improved understanding of polio and the vaccine, said an anonymous polio expert, who said uptake of the vaccine had increased since 2005. 

But in February of this year – following the killing of the 10 polio vaccinators in Kano – the approach changed once again. The campaign is now limited to health clinics and hospitals as part of routine immunizations, and it is entirely government-led. 

Many doctors fear this approach will threaten eradication efforts. To eliminate polio, vaccinators must reach at least 90 percent of children, giving each four doses over a 6-12 month period, according to the World Health Organization. 

“The halt in house-to-house immunization is a serious threat to eradication… A large chunk of children will have no access to the vaccine and will be at risk of infection,” Adamu Isa, a paediatric nurse at Nassarawa Specialist Hospital in Kano said.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), which oversees polio immunization in Nigeria, plans to hold a national workshop in Abuja for Muslim clerics and traditional leaders to clear up all misconceptions about the vaccine. 

“It will be frank, honest and no-questions-barred discussions where we will clear any misgiving they have about the polio vaccine with concrete proofs and evidences, because once we secure their support, we secure the confidence of the public in accepting the vaccine,” NPHCDA’s director-general, Ado Mohammed, told IRIN. 

[Courtesy of IRIN News]