|© UNICEF Video|
|A Nigerian child receives oral polio vaccine from Kano State Commissioner for Health Aisha Isyaku Kiru during the March 2010 synchronized immunization campaign.|
By Geoffrey Njoku
LAGOS, Nigeria, 16 April 2010 – Nigeria recently joined 19 other countries in West and Central Africa in a synchronized campaign to immunize more than 85 million children under the age of five against polio.
In four days last month, Nigeria immunized more than 45.5 million children, part of the effort to kick polio out of the African continent. The 57 million doses of the vaccine used in the effort were procured with UNICEF’s support.
Reaching every child
Besides work conducted at fixed immunization posts, thousands of vaccination teams went house to house or visited public places – such as churches, mosques and markets – to deliver the life-saving vaccinations.
|© UNICEF Video|
|Participants in the polio immunization drive that reached more than 45 million children in Nigeria.|
The teams were equipped with special ‘cold-chain’ carriers to keep the oral polio vaccine cool. Vaccinators travelled on foot and by motorbike, car and boat in an effort to reach every child.
Nigeria is making steady progress towards interrupting the transmission of the wild polio virus. As of the start of the immunization drive in mid-March, only one case of polio had been reported here this year. This contrasts sharply with 2008, when Nigeria had 803 confirmed polio cases, representing more than 85 per cent of all cases in Africa.
UNICEF and its partners helped develop the successful strategy that has nearly eradicated polio in Nigeria. It identifies four key groups – caregivers, vaccinators, and traditional and religious leaders – to systematically engage in advocacy and programming.
But the key to ridding Nigeria of polio has been a strong and routine immunization regimen.
“We will be putting a lot of funds into routine immunization to boost the programme, and we will also be introducing new vaccines, so our cold-chain rooms needs to be functional and operational,” said Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Executive Director of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency.