Somalia celebrates polio-free 3 years

A Somali baby is given a polio vaccination in Mogadishu, Somalia,in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2017

Somalia celebrates polio-free 3 years

JEDDAH: An event was held in Mogadishu on Monday to mark three years since the last detected case of polio in Somalia.
It was attended by Somalia’s president, MPs, delegates from the Health Ministry, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.
Speaking at the event, the WHO’s director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Mahmoud Fikri, applauded Somalia’s efforts to ward off the crippling and highly infectious virus, but urged continued caution.
“The absence of cases of polio in Somalia today is testament to the leadership, commitment and hard work of the government and people of Somalia, and the effective support and collaboration of many partners,” Fikri said.
“We need to remember, however, that Somalia is at risk of reinfection and we must stay vigilant.”
Somalia stopped endemic polio transmission in 2002, but was since twice affected by imports of the virus.
The outbreak in the Horn of Africa three years ago paralyzed nearly 200 children. Somalia was most affected, accounting for more than 90 percent of cases.
“The polio program in Somalia has fought hard to raise population immunity levels (against polio) across the country, and to improve surveillance system sensitivity to pick up traces of the disease,” said Fikri. “This is commendable, but there are still gaps we must continue to work to address.”
Insecurity and inaccessibility are key challenges for humanitarian partners operating in Somalia, particularly in the southern and central zones.
For the polio program, which aims to vaccinate every child under five years of age, innovative approaches are proving effective.
“Tools have been developed to help us map and track the movement of nomadic pastoral communities so we can reach children on the move,” said Dr. Ghulam Popal, WHO representative to Somalia.
“In addition, locally recruited village polio volunteers are helping us administer polio vaccine in and around places we can’t access. These volunteers also play a key role in helping to find and report cases of acute flaccid paralysis, which is an indicator for polio.”
The event celebrating three years polio-free comes amid the worst outbreak of measles the country has seen in years. Somalia is also still responding to a cholera outbreak that began in January.
“Polio infrastructure has been critical in responding to these other serious outbreaks,” Fikri said.
“We thank our donors and urge the international community to continue to support efforts to keep Somalia polio-free, and other much-needed health interventions in the country.”
Certificates of appreciation were presented to select individuals for outstanding contributions to Somalia’s anti-polio effort. Only nine cases of polio have been reported worldwide so far in 2017.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 29 min 16 sec ago

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.