|© UNICEF Niger/2004/Page|
|Traditional Chief Gado Sabo, of Mayahi District, Niger|
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Religious and traditonal leaders in Africa command tremendous trust in their communities. UNICEF believes these leaders have an irreplaceable role to play in reaching the un-reached – and building trust in, and demand for, life-saving health care for children. Here, a traditional chief in Niger explains how he gets the message out about immunization to his community.
“My name is Gado Sabo. I was born in 1928 in Niger. I have reigned as Traditional Chief of Mayahi District, Niger for 53 years.
“Mayahi has 202 villages and over 172,000 people. I am responsible for the well-being of everyone. There used to be smallpox disease and many parents did not believe in the vaccination. But, look! I still have the smallpox vaccination mark on my arm. I never got smallpox because my parents had me vaccinated. Now, we have ended smallpox around the world! This is a story I tell people in my district if they have doubts about the polio vaccine.
“I talk with them myself, but I also have over 30 ‘cavaliers’. I provide each ‘cavalier’ with a horse. I tell them all about polio, its symptoms, consequences and the safe vaccine that prevents it. Then I send them out on their horses to all the villages in Mayahi. In 5 days, the polio vaccination message is passed by my ‘cavaliers’ to village chiefs and family chiefs who tell their families.
“My ‘cavaliers’ also tell the town-criers, who spread the word in the markets where everyone gathers. And we also speak about polio on the radio.
“If a health worker tells me that someone in a village mistrusts the vaccine, I go there myself and talk with them. Then they believe, because the influence of Traditional Chiefs is even greater than that of doctors.”
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