|© UNICEF Nigeria 2011|
|His Excellency Dr. Mu'Azu Babangida, Governor of the Niger State, and Dr. Emmanuel Abanida, Ag. Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency lift the Polio Free Torch during the first state launching in Minna, Niger State.|
By Christian Moen
NEW YORK, USA, 24 October 2011 – Following a dramatic 95 per cent reduction in polio cases last year in Nigeria, the disease is once again on the rise – in large part because of lingering community resistance to polio immunization. To address this resistance, the country recently launched the Polio Free Torch Campaign. Supported by the Nigerian Olympic Committee (NOC) and a number of Nigerian Olympians, the campaign aims to mobilize wide support for the polio eradication efforts currently being made in Nigeria.
Campaigns such as these rely heavily on a range of social data that help shed light on, among other things, the reasons some communities are refusing to vaccinate their children with the oral polio vaccine (OPV). Today, on World Polio Day, UNICEF launches a new web site, PolioInfo, that will make this critical social data easier to access, supporting and strengthening communication efforts in all the polio priority countries.
Social data is ‘invaluable’
PolioInfo is linked to the official website of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which focuses on the epidemiological and logistical aspects of polio eradication. The two websites will work in harmony to provide a complete array of information to experts and community members.
“If we are to succeed in eradicating polio, we need to reach every last child with vaccine,” said Jos Vandelaer, UNICEF’s Chief of Immunization. “But first we have to reach every last parent and caregiver and ensure they have the knowledge they need to make critical choices about vaccinating their children. This is where timely access to social data is invaluable.”
Challenges and solutions
PolioInfo publishes risk assessments for each of the eight priority polio-affected countries – Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan. These assessments show a variety of risks in each country, such as the risk of communities not being aware of immunization efforts and the risk of parents declining vaccinations.
|The PolioInfo website and database present communication data collected, analysed and applied in country to help strengthen community support and commitment towards the goal of Global Polio Eradication.|
The website also enables field workers to share and adapt strategies to raise awareness of polio and reach out to community leaders and parents. And it profiles stories collected from experts in the field, highlighting challenges to immunization as well as solutions.
"The polio virus exploded in Chad," says Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF Representative in Chad, in a video on PolioInfo. But many parents refused to have their children vaccinated, fearing the oral polio vaccine would cause anaemia, paralysis or death. Fortunately, four months of awareness-raising by communications experts helped parents understand that vaccination protects children rather than harming them.
By sharing these successful strategies, and by ensuring the best possible data are available to experts, health workers and community leaders, PolioInfo brings the world one step closer to eradication.
About Polio Info
PolioInfo (http://www.polioinfo.org), developed by UNICEF and powered by the DevInfo Group, provides updates on the latest social data related to polio, as well as the communication efforts conducted in response to these data. PolioInfo’s social data are a valuable addition to the epidemiological and operational information currently available on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s Official website (www.polioeradication.org).