United in the fight against poliomyelitis
Meet the heroes who are helping to protect children against poliomyelitis, a paralysing disease with no known cure.
As a poliomyelitis epidemic strikes in the Maniema province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), hundreds of community workers and vaccinators are rallying across the country to protect children against paralysis.
Joseph, 73, is one of the victims of poliomyelitis and is contributing to the response. He has used crutches to move around since contracting poliomyelitis at the age of 5. “My physical appearance aids the argument when I explain to parents that I don’t want their children to find themselves in the same position as me,” explains Joseph. Vaccination is the only means of protecting children against poliomyelitis, which can cause irreversible paralysis.
During the first phase of the vaccination campaign at the end of May, Déo got up at dawn each morning to raise awareness amongst the inhabitants of the city of Goma about the importance of vaccination. “Poliomyelitis is a dangerous illness, so we need to let parents know so they can protect their children,” explains the community worker.
Over the course of three days, the vaccination teams went from house to house administering two drops of the poliomyelitis vaccine to all children under 5 years of age. The vaccinators also attended schools, stations, markets and places of worship to ensure no child was forgotten.
Social mobilisers and members of community action groups have raised awareness amongst parents at home, whilst town criers have spread the word throughout neighbourhoods and meeting places. “When you do something for the good of the child, you do it the very best you can,” states Wivine, who has travelled to isolated areas to ensure all children are vaccinated.
Lucien, 4, shows off his ink-stained finger after being protected against poliomyelitis during the first phase of the campaign. With the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and Rotary, over 7 million children are expected to be vaccinated.
The second phase of the campaign will be organised in July in the provinces of Maniema, Lomami, North Kivu, Sankuru, South Kivu, Tanganyika and Tshopo. UNICEF supports the Congolese government with the purchasing and management of vaccines, with strengthening the cold chain and with activities aimed at increasing social mobilisation and community engagement.