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The World is Three Countries Away From Being Polio-Free: WHO

The wild polio virus is present in parts of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, which are under the control of Boko Haram militants.

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A boy receives polio vaccination drops during an anti-polio campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA
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As another World Polio Day comes around, the World Health Organization reports three polio endemic countries— Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — hold the key to the global eradication of this crippling disease.

About one-half million children were becoming paralyzed by polio every year when the World Health Organization began its global polio eradication campaign three decades ago. Today, that number has been reduced by more than 99 percent.

WHO reports fewer than 30 cases of the disease this year, many of them in countries that had been considered polio-free. Spokesman for the Polio Eradication Initiative Oliver Rosenbauer tells VOA outbreaks have occurred in Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

Polio
There’s an exciting new breakthrough in treating some types of deadly brain tumors, that uses, of all things, a polio virus. Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina genetically altered the virus because it produces such a strong immune response in our bodies. Flickr

“This really, really underscores the risk that we have this disease — that it will continue to reappear, reemerge in areas that have already eradicated this disease. We see this time and again,” said Rosenbauer. “It is not the first time that we are facing new outbreaks again and we are confident, we know what it takes to stop these outbreaks again.”

Rosenbauer says these countries are implementing emergency measures to stop the outbreak. But, he warns the risk of the wild polio virus spreading across borders will continue until the disease is eradicated in the three endemic states of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

“These three countries hold the key to a polio-free world,” said Rosenbauer. “They have been battling this disease so very long, but they are making actually tremendous progress this year. Never before have we seen the disease in these countries at such low levels as we are today, this year.”

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Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same. VOA

Rosenbauer says Afghanistan and Pakistan have each reported six cases of this disease.

He says no cases of the paralytic disease have been detected in Nigeria. But that, he says, does not mean there are no new cases of the disease there.

Also Read: Ebola Not A Global Health Emergency: WHO

He notes the wild virus is present in parts of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, which are under the control of Boko Haram militants. This, he says makes it too dangerous for health workers to conduct disease surveillance to see whether the virus is circulating. (VOA)

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Lack of Proper Sanitation Affects 620 Million Children Around The World: Report

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period.

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A new toilet recently installed in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

A lack of proper school toilets threatens the health, education and safety of at least 620 million children around the world, the charity WaterAid said in a new study published Friday.

Children at 1 in 3 schools lack access to proper toilets, putting them at risk of diarrhea and other infections and forcing some to miss lessons altogether, according to the study, based on data from 101 countries.

Guinea-Bissau in West Africa has the worst school toilets while Ethiopian children fare worst at home, with 93 percent of homes lacking a decent toilet according to the report, released ahead of World Toilet Day on Monday.

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Students arrive for class at the Every Nation Academy private school in the city of Makeni in Sierra Leone, April 20, 2012. VOA

“The message here is that water and sanitation affect everything,” WaterAid spokeswoman Anna France-Williams told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “If there’s no toilet in schools, children will miss lessons and it will have an impact on their growing up.”

Diarrhea, infection risk

A lack of proper sanitation puts millions of children around the world in danger of diarrhea, which kills 289,000 children younger than 5 a year, WaterAid said.

But some regions have started to clean up their act, notably South Asia, where access to toilets in schools has improved.

More than half the schools in Bangladesh now have access to decent toilets, while students in 73 percent of schools in India and 76 percent of those in Bhutan can access basic sanitation.

Akramul Islam, director of water, sanitation and hygiene at the Bangladeshi charity BRAC, said the country’s once-high levels of open defecation — using open ground rather than toilets — were now less than 1 percent.

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India’s plight in sanitation has not improved much since ages.
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“Today, schools have separate toilets for girls and boys and the issue of menstrual hygiene is also being addressed,” he said. “This has happened because of initiatives taken by both the government, the NGOs and other stakeholders.”

Also Read: 3 HIV+ Students Banned From School in Indonesia

Improvement needed

Despite the improvements, more than a third of the girls in South Asia miss school for one to three days a month during their period, WaterAid said, urging greater investment in basic sanitation.

“If we are serious about all children and young people, wherever they are, whatever their gender, physical ability or community background, having their right to clean water and sanitation, we must take decisive and inclusive action now,” said Chief Executive Tim Wainwright. (VOA)