Mohamed Shire
Zonal Polio Eradication Officer, WHO, Mogadishu

I am sure that we will finish this job. When we eradicate polio, I will be so happy – I will have been involved in the certification of the second human disease ever to be eradicated. I feel so lucky to have spent my life working for these two eradication programmes; I am proud to tell stories to my grandchildren of my life’s work. Eradicating polio has been very difficult – more difficult than it was to end smallpox. I suffered – me and my wife were even kidnapped once. But I am always motivated to keep going.

At the start of his career, Mohamed Shire played an important role as an epidemiologist in eradicating smallpox from Somalia – the final resting place for smallpox in the world. His work involved tracing smallpox and vaccinating Somali families against the disease, conducting campaigns at all hours of the day to ensure eradication once and for all.

In 1999, WHO and Somali health authorities approached a young Mohamed Shire with a proposal to join the polio eradication program. Since its inception, Shire has been serving as Polio Coordinator for Central Somalia. Shire has spent much of his life leading polio teams in Central Somalia to keep wild poliovirus away and more recently has been focused on preventing circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). To address these diseases, Shire has been heavily involved in planning and coordinating preventive nationwide polio campaigns and focused response campaigns in hotspots to vaccinate children to protect them from paralysis.

Shire has remained dedicated and committed to ending polio in Somalia even while in the face of danger; he and his wife were once kidnapped by non-state actors that did not seem to understand the exact nature of Shire’s work in the country. This did not deter Shire, who continued to discharge his duties zealously to vaccinate every child possible. Dynamic and dedicated even today, Shire stands out as a beacon for Somalia’s polio eradication programme, working tirelessly and training young Somali men and women to look for polio symptoms in children and vaccinate under-immunized children, with a view to end polio in Somalia.