From victims to heroes
Polio survivors fight on to protect every child across the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At first glance, Jemima looks like any other young girl. Sparkling and smiling, it's only when she moves that the difference becomes obvious. The young girl became infected with polio when she was three years old and now lives with a disability because her parents were reluctant to get her vaccinated.
"When the vaccine administrators came to our house, we hid under the bed," explains Jemima who was not allowed to go outside during the vaccination campaigns. Polio is an extremely contagious disease that can cause paralysis or even death in young children.
Now 14, Jemima and her mother speak at vaccination campaigns to encourge parents to vaccinate their children. "No child would choose to become like me, so if you want to protect your child, get them vaccinated," declares Jemima.
Four-year-old Julienne was vaccinated as part of a campaign organised in several provinces with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Rotary International. With two rounds, the campaign aims to vaccinate over 7 million children.
Joseph also decided to speak out in support of vaccination. He has walked with the aid of crutches ever since he caught polio at the age of five. "My body speaks a thousand words when I tell parents I don't want their children to end up like me," explains Joseph.
Vaccination is the only way to protect children from polio that can cause irreversible paralysis. UNICEF works with partners in the Congolese government to purchase and distribute vaccines and to raise awareness in order to eradicate the disease.