At a glance: Liberia

Vaccinators strive to ‘reach the unreachable’ in Liberia’s polio campaign

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2005
Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of Liberia’s National Transitional Government, vaccinates a child during the launch of Liberia’s polio campaign in River Gee County.

NEW YORK, 4 March 2005 - Liberia has completed the first of four rounds of polio vaccinations this year, designed to reach all children under the age of five. This effort is part of a massive polio immunization drive involving 23 countries across the African continent. The aim is to reach a hundred million children and drive polio out of Africa for good.

Six thousand vaccination teams, 2,000 social mobilizers and 450 scouts combed the country in order to find all the children who need the vaccine, and also to educate their parents about its importance.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2005
Liberia’s Health Minister Dr. Peter Coleman speaks at a polio campaign launch in Fish Tow, Maryland County.

UNICEF helped to train many local officials, as well as two traditional leaders from each of the fifteen political divisions of the country, in how best to communicate the advantages of vaccination.

Challenges, including the effects of years of civil war, neglect, lack of infrastructure and demoralized health care workers, made the logistics of the Liberian polio campaign especially formidable. Many places which the vaccinators had to reach were inaccessible even to four-wheel-drive vehicles. UNICEF donated 118 motorbikes, but in some cases even these were not useful, and the health teams had to reach their destinations on foot.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Liberia/2005
Liberian mothers and children at the launch of the polio campaign.

“Many vaccinators had to walk very long distances, to up to 12 hours in same cases, with the vaccine boxes on their heads so that they could go across rivers,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Liberia Angela Kearney.

The vaccination campaign began in River Gee County, one of Liberia’s poorest areas – a three-day drive from the capital, Monrovia. United Nations Special Representative to Liberia Jacques Paul Klein officially launched the campaign, along with senior government ministers including the Chairman of the National Transitional Government Charles Gyude Bryant.


 

 

Audio

4 March 2005:
UNICEF Representative to Liberia Angela Kearney discusses the challenges faced by vaccinators.

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