14 August 2013: For the first time since 2007, a case of wild poliovirus was reported in Somalia on 9 May 2013. Since that case was confirmed in May, an additional 31 polio cases have been reported in the South Central zone of Somalia. Another six polio cases have been reported among Somali refugees in Dadaab, Northeast Kenya, suggesting the risk of widespread and cross-border transmission of the virus.
The escalating incidence of polio in Somalia constitutes a public health emergency, especially in a country that is already challenged by malnutrition, food shortages and roving militia groups. Internally displaced persons and refugees are relocating within Somalia and to neighbouring countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia, which significantly increases the risk of prolonged transmission of the virus, whereas militia activities further challenge intervention efforts.
In response, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has provided a rapid response grant of US$1,415,815 to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). UNICEF will use this grant to implement immunization and surveillance activities in accessible areas in the South Central zone of Somalia, which will focus on mobile and recently displaced people to ensure that any child entering or leaving accessible areas in the South Central Zone of Somalia is immunized against polio.
The allocation is expected to benefit more than 2 million children under age 5.