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At a glance: Nigeria

Nigeria’s polio immunisation campaign takes off

© UNICEF Nigeria/2005/Jaulmes
An airport immunisation team, wearing the same green apron as the other vaccination teams in Nigeria, inspects the departure hall at the international Murtala Muhammed airport in Lagos on Tuesday April 12, 2005.

By Sabine Dolan

LAGOS, Nigeria, 18 April 2005 – Nigeria has just completed the second round of its Polio National Immunisation Days (NIDs) for 2005.  For the first time ever, vaccination teams were dispatched to the Lagos Murtala Muhammed International and Domestic airports in an effort to immunise children under five against polio. Nigeria hopes to reach 40 million children in this latest vaccination campaign.

For four days Port Health Services staff along with health workers from the National Programme of Immunisation, vaccinated children coming in and out of the country. Wearing a green apron, airport immunisation teams worked around the clock talking to young mothers and explaining to them the importance of immunising babies against polio; the crippling disease remains endemic in Nigeria. With parents’ consent, vaccinators were giving oral vaccines to children.. After the four-day initiative, 171 children were immunised in the airport zone. Vaccinators were also posted at other entry points across the country, including border check points between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin.

© UNICEF Nigeria/2005/Jaulmes
Tuesday April 11, one of the vaccinators of the Port Health services explains the importance of polio vaccine to Nigerian mothers coming back from Europe into Nigeria as they wait for their luggage at the Lagos International Airport.

Africa’s drive to wipe out polio
With the polio virus’ high-transmission season just months away, African countries have been redoubling their efforts to reach as many children as possible in the second of a series of three immunisation drives scheduled for 2005. The second round was aimed to contain the epidemic before the virus begins to spread more rapidly during the high season months stretching from July to September.  The stakes remain high across the continent.

The Horn of Africa is under siege following the re-infection of Ethiopia in January by polio spreading from Sudan.  Ethiopia, which had been polio-free since 2001, has just completed its first-round of the national immunisation campaign. The country hopes to stop the spread of the virus within its own borders and safeguard vulnerable neighbours such as Somalia and Djibouti.

© UNICEF Nigeria/2005/Jaulmes
The vaccination team operating for the first time in Lagos international Airport during the April Polio National Immunisation Days is talking to a young mother from Ivory Coast who just arrived in Nigeria with her family.

In West Africa, Mali has become the sixth formerly polio-free country to have officially re-established polio transmission, while Nigeria has recorded a disturbing 32 cases in the first three months of this year.

Despite the challenges, UN agencies and Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for this round.



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