NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – An emergency team is working to vaccinate 424,000 people living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya after polio was detected, the United Nations said on Friday.
A four-year-old girl tested positive for polio in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border, on May 17. Four other cases have been confirmed since.
Polio is a contagious viral infection that paralyses children’s arms and legs, as well as causing breathing problems, which can be fatal. The World Health Organization (WHO) has set itself a goal of eradicating polio globally by 2018.
The polio outbreak in Dadaab follows an outbreak in Somalia, where a two-year-old girl living in the capital Mogadishu tested positive in April. It was Somalia’s first case of polio since 2007.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the aim is to vaccinate up to 1.25 million people in Kenya over the next three months, including residents in areas surrounding Dadaab and Nairobi, where refugees sometimes travel. Polio was last detected in Kenya in 2011.
On Monday, WHO started vaccinating 288,000 children under 16 living in Dadaab.
“It is expected that close to 100 per cent of the target population will have been reached by the end of the day,” it said in a statement on Friday, adding that it would start vaccinating adults in the camp in June.
Many people in south-central Somalia have not received the routine childhood vaccination against polio because of the war. The Somali government began an emergency campaign targeting children across the country this month.
Polio is endemic in just three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2012, there were 223 cases of polio worldwide.