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VOA Somali and Hausa Major Contributors in Polio Eradication Success

VOA Somali Service Polio panel discussion in Garowe Nugaal Region, Puntland Somalia.
VOA Somali Service Polio panel discussion in Garowe Nugaal Region, Puntland Somalia.

Voice of America’s Somali Service has been at the forefront of the polio eradication efforts in East Africa, since Somalia, with the second lowest vaccination coverage in the world, was under particular threat from polio.

Somalia is now marking six months since the last polio case was reported in the country, following an outbreak that affected 199 people, mostly children. VOA’s efforts played a significant role in Somalia’s success in the fight against the spread of the Polio virus.

For almost two years, VOA Somali’s reporting has focused on dispelling misperceptions and distrust of immunization efforts that are prevalent among certain communities in the country. The Service focused on programs that underscore the benefits of polio prevention through vaccinations and organized town hall meetings in three major cities to bring this message home. Health professionals, international and local health officials, as well as influential clan elders and other stakeholders, were recruited to participate in these town hall meetings.

In addition to Somalia, Nigeria marked the one-year anniversary of the country's last reported case of polio -- a remarkable public health accomplishment among Africa's largest population. VOA Hausa played a leading role in that campaign by bringing together religious leaders to dispel conspiracy theories surrounding the polio vaccine and encouraging parents to protect their children.

VOA reaches Somalia and neighboring countries on AM, FM, shortwave radio, the Internet, and through mobile devices. A team of Somali broadcasters based in Washington, D.C., along with freelance reporters in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa and the world provide news to a country mired in anarchy since 1991 and now trying to establish democratic government.

VOA Hausa produces a total of 13.5 hours of weekly radio programming on shortwave and AM. Hausa also has a 24/7 audio mobile stream that targets young demographics particularly in Nigeria on cell phones. The service’s popular mobile site complements regular programming with unique mobile-only content and features.