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Real lives

Traditional Chief Gado Sabo supports immunization – in his own words

© UNICEF Niger/2004/Page
Traditional Chief Gado Sabo, of Mayahi District, Niger

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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