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Somalia, April 2016: Students lend their support to polio eradication

By Ibrahim Elsheikh

© UNICEF Somalia/2016/Shahzad
More than 1000 schoolchildren participated in the Polio National Immunization Day Walk to kick off the NID campaign in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

HARGEISA, Somaliland, April 2016 – On 5 April 2016, a group of more than 1000 school children from 23 primary and intermediate schools participated in the Polio National Immunization day walk to kick off the National Immunization Days campaign in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The parade started early in the morning at the Ministry of Education. Led by a music band and a vehicle broadcasting the Polio Song through loud speakers, the students marched and clapped through the streets. They were met by the spectators along the way, who waved and cheered in support of the students.

When the parade reached the end point at Freedom Square, officials from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Somaliland Medical Association and UNICEF greeted the children. Two child ambassadors delivered speeches on behalf of their fellow students. Hodan Abdi, a 12-year old girl, who was trained as peer educator, and is one of the Immunization Child Ambassadors said: “Polio has to be kept outside our country, we should maintain Somaliland free of polio. Go out and end polio!” Then the rest of students loudly repeated and sang the Polio Song in Somali:

Polio campaign, polio vaccine
We must go out for it
To fight against polio disease
That affects our children
The vaccination team is in your neighbourhood
Mother, be prepared
Father, be prepared
Prepare your child for vaccination
Go out and end Polio

The event is a part of the polio social mobilization project that UNICEF is partnering with Somaliland Student Assembly (SOLSA), a local NGO to create awareness on polio among the schools. Somalia had a polio outbreak in May 2013, infecting nearly 200 people most of them children. Massive immunization campaigns led by the governments and supported by UNICEF, WHO and partners were able to successfully interrupt the spread of polio and Somalia has seen no new cases for nearly two years.

To keep polio out of Somalia, where tens of thousands of children have never been immunized before due to prolonged conflict and insecurity, schoolchildren are mobilized to contribute to the communication and social mobilization efforts. They have organized various activities, such as peer to peer education, immunization competitions, family and neighbourhood awareness and dissemination of materials to help spread the messages on the danger of polio and the importance of children getting vaccinated against it.

“Students are our future and they can be positive agents of change in their families and communities. Their participation is essential to the success of polio eradication. We should all work together to maintain Somaliland free from polio,” said Abib Aden, Director of the Public Health Department at Ministry of Health, Somaliland.



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