Somalia: National Taskforce to Tackle Polio Outbreak Launched

The taskforce will mobilize financial and technical resources and ensure that every child in Somalia is provided with life-saving vaccines.

On Monday, the Somali government said it launched a national taskforce on polio immunization, calling for swift action to end vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks.

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The Somalia Immunization and Polio Eradication Task Force, which is chaired by Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre, will oversee and coordinate polio eradication and immunization efforts across the country.

“The establishment of the national task force on immunization and polio is a testament to my government’s commitment to this cause,” Hamza said in a statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

The taskforce will mobilize financial and technical resources and ensure that every child in Somalia is provided with life-saving vaccines.

This proactive strategy demonstrates & its partners commitment to achieving comprehensive polio eradication in Somalia. @WHOSom and @WHOEMRO are appreciative of Somali government’s dedication to stopping polio transmission in Somalia, which will continue to be a crucial goal.

— WHO Somalia (@WHOSom) July 2, 2024

SIPE comprises key health officials at the federal and state levels and international partners.

Barre reiterated his government’s commitment to stop the transmission of polio by providing strong support and oversight of polio eradication and routine immunization activities in Somalia.

He said the country is committed to mobilizing support for the implementation of the Somalia Emergency Action Plan, rallying efforts domestically and internationally to stop cross-border transmission.

South-central Somalia is one of seven areas identified by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as consequential geographies, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Those areas are prone to repeated polio outbreaks, which are hard to control because of overpopulation, fragile health systems and conflict.

Since 2021, Somalia has confirmed 16 cases of polio, all in the south-central region, according to the WHO.

An estimated 1.5 million children have never been vaccinated, and Somalia is one of five countries globally with an under-five mortality rate greater than 100 deaths per 1000 live births.

Without intensified efforts, the WHO said Somalia is unlikely to meet its 2030 Sustainable Development Goal target of no more than 25 deaths per 1,000 live births.

During the event, Barre also launched the Child Survival Forum, which will review progress and devise strategies and an action plan to further reduce child mortality.

Much-needed leadership has been stepped up in Somalia, where 77,000 children die annually before their fifth birthday, and the country is urgently in need of accelerated progress to reduce these deaths.

Later in 2024, Somalia is expected to introduce the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines to prevent deaths caused by pneumonia and diarrhoea, both leading causes of child mortality, the WHO said.