Public Health AffairsThe challenge still stands [Archives:2005/870/Health]

August 22 2005

By Dr. Saleh Al-Habshi
Msc. in Public Health

The promising results announced on July 27 by the Ministry of Public Health & Population (MPH&P) about the high coverage achieved by the recently conducted Polio campaigns, seem to disperse the black cloud, which covered the efforts done by The Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) on the way to Polio Eradication during last years.

The EPI is considered one of the most active programmes in the MPH&P. The 369 Polio cases reported since the onset of the outbreak on February 2005 indicated that there were occult damages in the body of the programme. Those damages led to a sudden deterioration in the EPI activities, the programme had never known before. But an urgent intervention and resuscitation process pulled up the overall coverage rate to exceed 90%. Timeliness of decision-making response with full support of the EPI partners – the United Nations Organizations (WHO & UNICEIF) recovered the situation and the epidemic curve declined.

The recent Polio outbreak was due to many causes, mainly low coverage with routine immunization activities especially in the more affected provinces. Al-Hudeidah province reported 204 cases, while Hajjah and Amran provinces reported 28 and 23 cases consequently. The rest 114 cases were reported variably from 18 provinces.

Lahaj should be taken as an example in attaining their objectives towards the targeted group of children under five years. The MPH&P reported that out of 22 provinces of Yemen only Lahaj did not report confirmed cases.

Poliomyelitis is a potentially fatal disease, which killed and disabled millions of world population before immunization era. The disease is still endemic in some areas in developing countries due to socio-economic circumstances and political instabilities.

“There is no cure for the disease; vaccination of infants is the only thing could be done to prevent it.” Stated an American Scientist from the Center of Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, United States of America.

The overall coverage with Trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV3) by routine immunization in Yemen on 1997 was 57%, while many reports indicated that it reached 66% on 2003. Apparently, the immunization activities on 2004 seemed to be well done, when the danger was hidden under the results of that year, which prepared the ground for the resurgence of Polio outbreak.

Whatever the efforts are, they well never succeed until a real combination of government and community roles take place.

Illiteracy rate in Yemen is 27% and 67% among males and females consequently. These figures should be considered by the government. Individuals especially parents must have a certain level of education to understand the information about the importance of immunization conducted to them.

Hope will be there, that overall coverage rate with Polio immunization shall keep on over 90%. However, the challenge still stands, if the government does not tackle many socio-economic indicators.