This month marks one year since the last new case of wild polio in Africa.
Last week, a Guardian article reported this milestone in the continent’s development, with the reservation that continuing conflicts may prevent the final eradication of the disease.
The last two countries in the continent to diagnose a case of polio were Nigeria and Somalia, both of which are struggling with Islamist militant groups – Boko Haram and al-Shabaab respectively.
Nigeria was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries in July, when it recorded a full year with no new cases. However, political violence and unrest caused by Boko Haram threatens to reverse this breakthrough.
Although Nigeria’s new president Muhammadu Buhari is adamant that his administration will tackle the Boko Haram problem, he has so far in his short time in office been unable to find a long-term solution.
This week’s Nigeria Politics & Security examines Buhari’s military campaign against the group, and analyses the possibility of negotiations with Boko Haram. It has been reported that a new leader, Mahamat Daoud, has emerged and is willing to negotiate with the government – though he likely only leads a faction of the militants. Those in favour of negotiations believe Daoud could deliver information that may help curtail Boko Haram’s activities. However, the negotiation offer may in reality be a diversionary tactic as they prepare for a major onslaught.
With the probability of this turmoil intensifying still high, the progress that has been made in ridding the country of polio could be reversed. In order to prevent polio recurring, vaccines must be administered to around 5 million children each year. With the continuing insurgency and people displaced, this task remains difficult.