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Drops of life: Nairobi fights polio in vaccination drive

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Serem
A child receives the oral polio vaccine during the 2018 Polio Vaccination Campaign in Nairobi, Kenya.

By Joy Wanja Muraya

The anticipation on Fourth Street in Eastleigh at the launch of the polio campaign on Wednesday morning was a relaxed kind of energy.

The Ministry of Health and partners were part of an event determined to protect children in Nairobi City from the virulent polio virus that was detected in an environmental sample.

Since early morning, the eager residents had watched the pitching of tents, the setting up of music equipment and keenly followed as the health workers wore yellow, informational aprons and plastered walls with posters and banners. The messages were in English, Swahili and Somali.

As the 10 a.m mark drew closer, the crowds at the doorstep of the Eastleigh Health Centre in Kamukunji sub-county began to swell, marking the beginning of a five-day immunization campaign.

Then, the attention was drawn towards the stage when an educative drama began.

The community enacts an educative drama on the importance of immunizing children agaisnt polio.

One woman holding a baby took a bold step. She moved closer and sat next to a health worker whom she engaged in a conversation to ascertain that her daughter was eligible to get the polio vaccine.

She smiled. Her daughter was going to get the life-saving vaccine.

She sat patiently and followed the role play and speeches stressing the importance of the polio campaign.

She is grateful that a neighbour was graceful enough to share the great news that the campaign would officially begin at her doorstep.

“My daughter is up to date with all the vaccines she is supposed to receive. I am happy that this campaign will also protect her from polio, a crippling disease,” said Shadia.

The little girl, Maria, held on to her mother tightly as she received the oral polio vaccine from the health worker. Her curiosity on the unique taste of the two polio vaccine drops, kept her from crying. She was even more drawn to the mark made on her little finger using indelible ink. This is a mark that she is a young ‘warrior’ in the fight against polio, ready and determined to face the disease head on.

According to Shadia, bringing her only child for the immunization is an affirmation that she did not leave the risk of getting polio to either luck or chance. She urged parents and guardians to ensure their children get immunized.

“I urge all mothers with children below five years to open their doors and give all children this vaccine,” Shadia added saying that the announcements from Eastleigh Health Centre had played a great role in creating awareness of the public health campaign.

The role play in Swahili emphasized the critical role of parents in the fight against polio.

© UNICEFKenya/2018/Serem
Shadia, a mother living in Eastleigh, Nairobi, shows her daughter's marked finger after she received the oral polio vaccine.

The ministry of health with support from UNICEF, WHO and other partners, will conduct a door to door polio vaccination campaign in Nairobi County targeting 800,000 children under the age of five years.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by the polio virus, which mainly affects young children. The government provides the required doses of polio vaccine for free in all public health facilities so no child should miss getting vaccinated.

The Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health urged parents and guardians to support the Nairobi Polio Vaccination Campaign. 

His message was crisp, clear and simplified.

"Ensure every child in your community and household is vaccinated to ensure we end polio in Kenya,” Dr Kioko said.

UNICEF Kenya Deputy Representative Patrizia DiGiovanni called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders to eradicate polio in Kenya. She was optimistic that the targets are realistic and achievable.

“Let us work together to eradicate the possibility of polio in our lifetime,” she said.

The Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko, administers the polio vaccine to a child during the launch of the Polio Vaccination Campaign in Eastleigh, Nairobi.

Polio Ambassadors, Senator Harold Kipchumba and Fred Ouko, joined the call for a united neighbourhood and county to ensure the success of the campaign.

His message in Swahili resonated with the residents.

The feeling of hope and promise flowed through them as the conversation filled the air and they clapped to Senator Kipchumba’s wise words.

“Danger has come to our doorsteps. Polio has no cure. Any child who does not get immunized is placing his peers at risk of getting polio. Every child should be vaccinated,” Kipchumba said.

Kamukunji sub county administrators expressed their support for the campaign and promised to work with the health workers to ensure that all children were immunized.

The next rounds of polio vaccination will be held in Nairobi, Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado, Kiambu, Kitui, Lamu, Machakos, Mandera, Meru, Tana River and Wajir targeting 2.5 million children.

The foresight that led this polio campaign in Nairobi is expected to culminate in the immunization of 800,000 children below five years.



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