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Why Are We Still Fighting Polio and Leprosy?

Why Are We Still Fighting Polio and Leprosy?

Many people believe that polio and leprosy have either been eradicated or are no longer a threat to the world’s population. But in many parts of the world, particularly Sub Saharan Africa, these and other communicable diseases remain.

The reasons these diseases persist are varied and complex. Poor nutrition and inadequate housing, as well as weak, underfunded healthcare systems with inadequate staffing and supplies top the list. It is no wonder that although Sub Saharan Africa has 11 percent of the world’s population, it carries 25 percent of the disease burden.

Providing health care is the main charge of many Aid for Africa member organizations, and polio and leprosy are part of their portfolios.

Kenya was pronounced polio-free in 2011, but two years later 14 cases of polio were reported in the refugee camps in the north. Because Nairobi receives large numbers of refugees and other transients moving through East Africa, it is now considered a risk area for the disease. To support government efforts to prevent further polio cases, community health workers trained through Carolina for Kibera’s Community Wellness Program, have joined efforts to vaccinate the most vulnerable to the disease—children under the age of five living in areas of risk. Even though a lack of trust and misinformation about polio and vaccinations makes achieving high vaccination rates difficult, these health works exceeded their goals by 32 percent and immunized more than 14,500 children. These and other community-based efforts work.

For leprosy, there is no vaccine. The disease can only be treated and contained through multidrug therapy. American Leprosy Missions has been treating leprosy in Sub Saharan Africa and around the world for more than 100 years. It also works to help leprosy sufferers care for the disease and become productive members of their communities.

During the last 12 years, American Leprosy Missions has successfully supported the development of a leprosy vaccine. The vaccine will undergo clinical trials in human volunteers by 2015. If all goes well, a viable vaccine could help eradicate this debilitating disease which now affects some 4 million people worldwide.

Eradicating diseases like polio and leprosy requires efforts at all levels, from the laboratory to community health workers. Aid for Africa members contribute significantly to the pattern of progress, which gives us all hope.

Want to learn more? Read New Test May Signal the End for a Biblical Disease.

Aid for Africa is an alliance of 85 U.S.-based nonprofits and their African partners who help children, families, and communities throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Aid for Africas grassroots programs focus on health, education, economic development, arts & culture, conservation, and wildlife protection in Africa.

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Photo Credit: Aid for Africa

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47 comments

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2:14PM PDT on Jul 31, 2014

Sometimes vaccines work a lot better than herbal medicine.

Nina L states: "Because even sickness is part of life ... and can be sometimes life changing. My children had ALL the children illnesses like measles etc.
We gave them herbs, Homeopathy, lots of water, warmth, care ... and it was just fine."

Tell that one to those who were stuck in Iron lungs. I suspect that most of them would have rather had a vaccine and no polio had vaccines been available at that time in history.

5:16AM PDT on Jun 17, 2014

Don't blame Islam because of the Muslims. ISLAM doesn't prohibit polio drops Muslims do!!! #proudtobeamuslim

5:08AM PDT on Jun 17, 2014

It is curable!!! #eliminatepolio

9:04AM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

thanks

8:59AM PDT on Jun 15, 2014

Thanks

4:23PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

NINA - "Vaccinations are weakening the immune system"...Where did you get your medical degree? You obviously have as much concept of the immune system as a gopher does of astrophysics..

4:20PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Because idiots with no medical knowledge are living in the dark ages re vaccines & health care. Can't wait for a pandemic to kill the morons. Hahahahaha.

2:57PM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

Barbara S vaccines do not cause Autism at all.

12:52AM PDT on Jun 12, 2014

First, polio and all other diseases are NOT "Biblical" in origin. Just because they may have existed in those Times does not mean they are "Biblical." They are just diseases... and we have the vaccines to eradicate them. But vaccines are now being deemed as "bad" for children because a few of every ten thousand kids suffer ill-affects from them. I am one of those children. I nearly died from my childhood vaccines. My reaction was SO severe, our family doctor never tried to vaccinate me with anything every again. I never had polio, I never had scarlet fever or whooping cough or mumps. But I did have the measles, both kinds, and I had chicken pox. The only thing that nearly killed me was pneumonia, and to this day my present physician will not vaccinate me for the pneumonia or shingles vaccine because of the bad reactions shown in my childhood records. It's sad for me to say I believe that a few out of every ten thousand is a bad risk to take - especially when your child becomes one of the kids who reacts badly, gets autism, or dies from complications. What we NEED to do is focus on is what's different about US, so we can be diagnosed as risks BEFORE we take the vaccines.

7:48PM PDT on Jun 11, 2014

Let's hope that the leprosy vaccine is both, successful, & affordable.

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