|© UNICEF Nigeria/2009/Morgan|
|Town crier Shoe Wasino urges families to bring their children to be immunized in Nigeria’s national polio vaccination campaign.|
By Chris Morgan
OGUN, Nigeria, 30 March 2009 – In the village of Madoga, trained community health workers from Nigeria and Benin Republic work together to reach all the children in the community. They are part of a mass campaign synchronised between eight West African countries that has aimed to reach more than 50 million children with the polio vaccine over the last four days.
Nigeria is one of just four countries in the world with endemic polio. In 2003, controversy surrounding the vaccine resulted in many parents refusing to immunise their children. This led to a large increase in the number of cases, and the reinfection of seven other African countries.
The Nigerian Government is determined to eradicate polio. With the support of UNICEF, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, they are leading the initiative.
“Globally, we had 350,000 cases of polio paralysis 20 years ago. Last year, we had 1,500 across the world. A lot of those were in Nigeria which is a concern to us,” said Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency is working to strengthen routine immunization at the primary health care level, which these mass campaigns supplement by reaching large numbers of children quickly. In the region, over 162,000 trained vaccinators are going door to door to immunize all children under five.
Working with traditional leaders
By working with traditional and religious leaders, health workers have overcome fears about polio immunisation. In the bright early morning sunshine of Ogun State, Sulaimon Hammed waits eagerly at his front door with his three year old son, Halid.
“We went to the central mosque yesterday; they told us some people used to chase the health workers away,” he said. “They said we should allow them into our homes to give our children the vaccine.”
Halid, with millions of other children across West Africa, has received the vital immunisation helping to eradicate this crippling disease.
UNICEF's work on eradicating polio
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