Nigerian Islamists Responsible for Hundreds of Polio Cases

This report is a few weeks old, but I’ve only just come across it. From the Abuja Daily Trust (via AllAfrica):

…Speaking yesterday at an interactive forum with newsmen in Abuja, the interim NPI [National Programme on Immunization] boss said Nigeria is the only country in Africa transmitting not only the wild polio virus (WPV), but also the only country in the world circulating types 1 and 3 of the wild polio virus covering a large geographical area.

“As at January 20, 2006, Nigeria had 751 cases of OPV in 22 states, with five states (Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Bauchi and Zamfara), accounting for 63 percent of the total case,” Dr. [Edugie] Abebe declared and lamented the low immunization coverage in the country.

Unfortunately, however, the Daily Trust gives no information about who’s responsible for this utterly needless tragedy. Two years ago exactly, Integrated Regional Information Networks reported:

Two more states in northern Nigeria have refused to participate in a global vaccination campaign to eradicate polio which kicked off this week.

…A total of four staunchly Muslim states in Northern Nigeria are now blocking the immunisation programme, casting doubt over a plan to eradicate the disease worldwide by the end of the year.

I blogged on this at the time, and noted the central roles of Kano governor Ibrahim Shekarau and Lagos State University Professor Hussain Abdulkareem: both of them deliberately distorted scientific findings in order to spread hysteria about the vaccine’s safety. A harmless trace amount of the hormone estriadoil (western drinking water contains a greater amount) was said to prove that the vaccine would cause genital deformity in boys, while Abdulkareem also alleged that the vaccine would spread cancer and AIDS – claims that were then spread by local imams. Shekarau rejected a scientific committee’s finding that the vaccine was safe on the utterly bizarre grounds that the committee consisted only of Muslims, and that more Christians should have been involved [sic!]. Kano now imports the vaccine from Indonesia.

In May of last year, it was reported that the virus had spread beyond Nigeria. The BBC noted that:

Health authorities in Yemen say 83 children have been diagnosed with polio, nearly double the figure reported just over a week ago.

…Sixteen previously polio-free countries have reported new cases since 2003, when a polio vaccine boycott in Nigeria was blamed for spreading the disease.

…Experts suspect the strain could have been carried from Nigeria to other countries by migrant workers or pilgrims visiting Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Hardline Islamic clerics claimed the polio vaccination was part of a plot by the US to make people infertile or give them HIV-Aids.

(for further details, see my entries here, here, and here)