The Politics of Polio in Northern Nigeria

The Politics of Polio in Northern Nigeria

Elisha P. Renne
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/30/2010
ISBN: 978-0-253-00461-1
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First runner-up, 2011 Nigerian Studies Association Book Prize

In 2008, Northern Nigeria had the greatest number of confirmed cases of polio in the world and was the source of outbreaks in several West African countries. Elisha P. Renne explores the politics and social dynamics of the Northern Nigerian response to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which has been met with extreme skepticism, subversion, and the refusal of some parents to immunize their children. Renne explains this resistance by situating the eradication effort within the social, political, cultural, and historical context of the experience of polio in Northern Nigeria. Questions of vaccine safety, the ability of the government to provide basic health care, and the role of the international community are factored into this sensitive and complex treatment of the ethics of global polio eradication efforts.

Author Bio

Elisha P. Renne is Professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. She is author of Population and Progress in a Yoruba Town and Cloth That Does Not Die and editor (with E. van de Walle) of Regulating Menstruation.


“A remarkable exploration of ordinary Muslims' often skeptical response to polio and other vaccinations promoted by their government and WHO. Renne may not persuade you that Muslims' fears were justified, but she ensures you will understand their rationale. An invaluable, provocative text for all those involved in promoting 'global' health.”
 — Murray Last, University College London

“An awesome, thoughtful piece of work exploring in remarkable detail the subject of eradication, the ethics of eradication, and the motivations of all parties concerned.”
 — Donald Henderson, Center for Biosecurity

“Renne understands the stakes and has done some important research. The issue of vaccination resistance and protest in Northern Nigeria has gained a great deal of attention in the media.”
 — Julie Livingston, Rutgers University

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Protesting Polio
2. Smallpox and Polio Histories
3. Politics and Polio in Nigeria
4. Islam and Immunization in Northern Nigeria
5. Polio, Disability, and Begging
6. Polio in Northern Nigeria and Northeastern Ghana
7. The Ethics of Eradication