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Togo youth media activists unite to help eradicate polio

© UNICEF Togo 2009/Bonnaud
‘A Nous la Planète’ (The Planet Is Ours) team interviews a teacher about polio prevention in Segbé primary school in the Maritime region of Togo.

By Hadrien Bonnaud

SEGBE, Togo, 7 April 2009 – While Aristos, 16, prepared the camera focus, Marie, 14, plugged in the microphone, Gisèle, 13, checked the sound level and Elvis, 11, put the finishing touches on his introduction to the story of Togo’s recent national polio immunization campaign.

Despite their young age, these budding television journalists have the professionalism and technical savvy of veteran reporters. They have taken their first steps in the media world courtesy of the non-governmental organization, ‘A Nous la Planète’ (The Planet Is Ours), founded and directed by Charles Adom. Since 2004, the Togolese national television channel, TVT, has given the group 30 minutes of airtime every Sunday. 

Giving children a voice
In Togo, as elsewhere, traditional media often neglect the potential of children to join the national conversation. The International Children’s Day of Broadcasting (ICDB) was created to help change that. This year it was celebrated on 1 March, with broadcasters presenting programmes produced by young people, for young people worldwide.

ICDB holds special significance in Togo, where about half of the population is under 18 years of age.

The team from ‘A Nous la Planète’ chose to produce a news story on the polio vaccination campaign for ICDB. “This campaign is being carried out simultaneously in eight neighboring countries,” Elvis explained. “When, in Africa, we tackle our problems together, we have to talk about it. That’s what we want to do with this news report.”

Charles added: “The aim is to give children a space for free expression, because not only are they the adults of tomorrow, they are best placed to inform other children.”

Community-generated awareness
For their report, the youth journalists travelled to a school in a small village on Togo’s border with Ghana to film an information session on polio transmission. They interviewed a health worker, the head of the Village Development Committee and a UNICEF water and sanitation specialist.

After one day of intensive filming, the young people were well informed about the challenges of polio and child survival.

© UNICEF Togo 2009/Bonnaud
The entire team at ‘A Nous la Planète’ (from left) – Aristos, 16, Gisèle, 13, Elvis, 11, and Marie, 14 – covered Togo’s national polio immunization campaign during the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting.

“Each important person in the village must play a part in the eradication of the disease,” said Marie. “If the teacher, the health worker, the president of the VDC and the UNICEF specialist explain the ways polio spreads, it will convince the children and adults to get their child vaccinated during this campaign – and also to wash their hands properly to avoid any contamination.”

Elvis enthusiastically concluded: “We must find solutions to save more children. And if the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting allows us to convey our message to the whole world, the world is definitely on the right track!”

Partnerships for polio eradication
In less than 15 years, UNICEF has delivered more than 10 billion doses of the oral polio vaccine to over 2 billion children around the world. Polio is a highly contagious viral infection of the nervous system and has no cure. It is spread in water or food contaminated by human excrement, and is particularly dangerous in rural areas that lack appropriate sanitation.

Togo was declared clear of polio in 2007, but the disease reappeared in 2008 when three cases were identified in the north of the country. Faced with the threat of an epidemic, the Togolese Government organized a national polio vaccination campaign with support from the World Health Organization and UNICEF.



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