By Chris Morgan
KANO, Nigeria, 4 August 2011 – Aminu Ahmad sits on the side of the road intently watching his young apprentice weld a wheelchair. “This is our workshop and 80 per cent of the people here have disabilities, but we are working hard, just like anybody else,” he explains.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Chris Morgan reports on community efforts to eradicate polio in Kano State, Nigeria, as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Watch in RealPlayer|
As a child, Mr. Ahmad was stricken by polio, a preventable disease that once affected millions of children each year. “I asked my mother why I was disabled, and she told me I was not immunized’” he says.
Mr. Ahmad trains and employs young people affected by polio, and the best-selling product from his workshop is an innovative wheel chair. But his real aim is to protect future generations from the disease.
As Chairman of the Kano Polio Victims Association, Mr. Ahmad is involved in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
|© UNICEF video|
|Men who were stricken with polio and suffered paralysis in their youth gather together in Nigeria's Kano State.|
The initiative has helped to reduce new infections by 99 per cent since 1988. Now polio is endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.
To completely eradicate the disease, every child needs to be reached. However, in some areas – such as Mr. Ahmad community of Danlassa, in Nigeria’s Kano State – resistance to vaccination remains. So he goes from house to house, speaking to parents about the importance of immunization.
“We who have been affected with polio go and visit communities to explain to them that they should immunize their children,” he says.
|© UNICEF video|
|An intensified communication campaign is working to overcome resistance to polio immunization in high-risk areas of Nigeria.|
Dramatic reduction in cases
As result of these communication campaigns Nigeria has made some remarkable progress. The number of new polio cases fell from almost 400 cases in 2009 to 21 in 2010 – a 95 per cent reduction.
Today, Mr. Ahmad is hopeful that the eradication initiative will finally succeed. “In one or two years,” he says, “Nigeria can eradicate all polio.“
Global Polio Eradication Initiative website
(external link, opens in a new window)