Dr Abdirahman Mahamud with Judith Diment MBE

Polio and Pakistan: Clearing the final hurdle

Dr Abdirahman Mahamud has been at the forefront of the Polio Eradication Initiative, previously working as National Team Leader for the World Health Organization in Pakistan – just one of two countries in the world where polio still has a strong foothold.

Before the immunisation campaign was paused, Dr Mahamud was reassigned from Pakistan to support the global Vaccine Derived Poliovirus Type 2 team.

Since then he has worked as part of the World Health Organization’s global pandemic response in the West Pacific region

Dr Mahamud was among the first to see reports out of China in December 2019 about a mysterious pneumonia-like illness that we all now know as COVID-19.

In February 2020, he visited Oxford to speak to Rotarians about how the World Health Organization is leading the fight against polio.

Over the past 25 years, the number of children affected by polio has declined from 2,600 cases in 1994 to 72 cases in 2019 in Pakistan and 16 cases in Afghanistan.

Speaking to Rotarians in Oxford, Dr Mahamud reflected how some increases in cases can be linked to election periods.

Polio remains a disease of marginalisation and inequality.

Pakistan faces a moral dilemma of investing millions in the vaccination for one disease, when there are still cases of diarrhoea and malnutrition, along with poor water supplies and sanitation.

The Pakistan government, Rotary and other aid organisations are supporting improvements to the nation’s water supply with initiatives such as solar filtration systems.