MOH Ignored Unicef’s Polio Warning Years Ago, Sabah Assistant Minister Claims

There are about 500,000 undocumented people in Sabah; 95% of undocumented children reportedly aren’t vaccinated.

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — Sabah’s assistant education and innovation minister today accused the Ministry of Health (MOH) of dismissing Unicef’s calls five years ago to vaccinate undocumented people in the state for free.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported Jenifer Lasimbang, who worked as a consultant with the United Nations agency between 2014 and 2017, as saying that the polio outbreak in Sabah could have been avoided if MOH then, under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, had heeded Unicef’s warnings.

“Sabah has a big population of people who are not registered and without identification papers and, thus, for certain they were unvaccinated,” Lasimbang was quoted telling a press conference in Kota Kinabalu.

FMT reported that there are about half a million undocumented people in Sabah and that 95 per cent of children from this community aren’t vaccinated.

Lasimbang reportedly said after she left Unicef, she asked Papar MP Ahmad Hassan to raise in Parliament the need to vaccinate undocumented people in Sabah.

“Ahmad Hassan also sought action by Putrajaya to call for international intervention to resolve the problem.

“However, the health minister had responded that a fee of RM40 for registration and additional RM40 for one vaccine would be charged to non-citizens and the undocumented,” she was quoted saying.

Dr S. Subramaniam was Health Minister from 2013 to May 2018, who was succeeded by Dzulkefly Ahmad after Pakatan Harapan (PH) won the 14th general election.

Lasimbang reportedly said Sabah’s increasing number of undocumented people exposed the state to various diseases.

“Now it’s polio, we don’t know what else we have yet to detect.”

Malaysia recently reported a polio outbreak in Tuaran, Sabah, near the Philippines that reported its eighth polio case last month during an outbreak starting last September. Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries in the Western Pacific region were previously declared polio-free in 2000.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 59 foreign children living near the area of the polio case in Sabah have been given the polio vaccine since the outbreak.

He also said the Health Ministry would work with Unicef to get a polio vaccine that has been subsidised by the UN body for use on foreign children in Sabah.

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