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Joint Global Polio Eradication Initiative aims to eliminate polio in Senegal

© UNICEF/Senegal/SHRYOCK/2010
A child under five years old receives a polio vaccination from a team of workers going door-to-door in towns throughout Senegal.

DAKAR, Senegal, 17 March 2010 – When two-year-old Mamadou fell ill, neither his mother nor his father knew what was ailing him. They took him to the nearest hospital, but the doctors there said that they needed to take Mamadou to Dakar – the capital of Senegal – more than two hours away.

Mamadou’s father, Ibrahima Sakho, is a fisherman, and the family could not afford to make the trip on their own. Eventually, a friend gave them a ride to Dakar, where doctors diagnosed the young boy with an illness neither of his parents had heard of before – polio.

Vaccinations for all

Mamadou’s was the country’s second case of polio in 2010. Because his parents had never heard of the disease, the child had not been vaccinated.

To prevent children like Mamadou from contracting polio, UNICEF is supporting the Joint Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, along with national governments, Rotary International and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This month, GPEI launched a campaign to vaccinate some 85 million children in West Africa and stop the spread of this disease.

The vaccination campaign is mobilized in towns like Joal, Senegal, where teams go door-to-door to see if children under five have been vaccinated.

On one such household visit, a mother of seven said that she was grateful for the vaccinations, because the health of her children is her top priority.

© UNICEF/Shryock/2010
A child receives the polio vaccine in Senegal.

After vaccinating the three youngest children in the household, the workers marked the door with a purple chalked V, which helps them keep track of households visited. Each family also receives yellow vaccinations cards for their children.

Road to recovery

In Senegal, the campaign aims to vaccinate the 2.2 million children under five. Some 12,700 vaccinators have been mobilized to go door-to-door.

Across the region, nineteen countries have synchronized their efforts in an attempt to stop the polio outbreaks in West and Central Africa. More than 400,000 volunteers and health workers will take part in the campaign.

According to Dr. Joseph Barboza, the Chief Doctor at Joal’s local hospital, before Mamadou and another boy fell ill this year, Senegal’s last known polio case was in 1998. “Our hope is that with these vaccination attempts, we can stop the transmission,” he said.

For now, Mamadou rests in a small hospital room in Fann Hospital in Dakar. He can move his right leg and his left arm slightly, but he still cannot walk, and he sleeps most of the day.

Mamadou’s father said that he now understands more about polio, including how the disease is transmitted. He hopes other parents will vaccinate their children, and remains hopeful that his youngest son will soon recover.



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