What has Boko Haram got to do with Polio?

Boko Haram

The recent call to arms against the terrorist group, Boko Haram, serves as a reminder of an ugly situation playing out in northern Nigeria. Established 12 years ago as a radical Islamic resistance movement to what the group called the corrupting influence of Western education, Boko Haram has since grown into an armed insurgency with grave implications for regional and global security. But beyond being a security threat, these militants are also a threat to global health.

Boko Haram has its headquarters in Nigeria’s Borno state, the same area where poliovirus transmission continues to frustrate international efforts to wipe out polio. This debilitating infection remains endemic in only three countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Sadly, all three countries are battling against armed militant groups. Worst still, a prolongation of the insurgencies in these countries could mean a reversal of the gains made in combating this infectious disease.

What makes matters more complex is that the Boko Haram issue is not just a matter of religion. There appear to be strong connections to thepetroleum resources lying underground in West Africa’s Lake Chad Basin.  How this confluence between religious militancy, oil and polio will play out isn’t clear at this point, but as I will be writing about it soon (watch this space). The outlook doesn’t look good for emerging health risks, though.

Image via RedState.com

This article was originally published by the University of Michigan Risk Science Center


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