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.