|© UNICEF/ 2011/Morgan|
|Women’s compound meetings in Northern Nigeria are targeting high risk communities where resistance to oral polio vaccine is strong.|
Communication plays a crucial role in polio eradication efforts, and is led by UNICEF on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). In this leadership role, UNICEF collaborates with its partners and national ministries of health to raise community and household awareness of the disease, to mobilize them to use of available immunization services, and to respond quickly and effectively to their concerns and needs in the event of a polio outbreak.
Fundamental to UNICEF’s approach is a strategic communication philosophy called Communication for Development (C4D). The practice of C4D applies a systematic, evidence-based strategic planning and implementation process to effect positive and measurable change in individual and community behavior.
The C4D approach incorporates a mix of communication strategies, channels and tools, as well as responses to observed social and cultural behaviors and social policy, applied in a local context. An integral part of development programmes, policy advocacy and humanitarian work, C4D differs in significant ways from conventional communications methods by establishing programme-specific initiatives that empower community members to express their individual voices and to participate actively in campaign efforts, as it does for polio eradication efforts.
By engaging families, communities and larger social networks in the process of identifying key issues, challenges and opportunities through dialogue and consultation, UNICEF promotes awareness and use of health services to prevent polio and other health threats and monitors the results. The PolioInfo website, developed by UNICEF, presents the latest GPEI campaign monitoring and communication data, which is used to develop profiles of the priority polio countries and to guide the creation and refinement of localized communication plans to address specific contextual barriers.
In this final stage of the GPEI programme, UNICEF and its partners aim to reach the most at-risk populations. These groups hold the key to the global goal of polio eradication.