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UNICEF leads community forums against polio in eastern Chad

Focus on remote and vulnerable communities aims at stopping the spread of poliovirus in the country

© UNICEF/Chad/2011
Heads of cantons and villages in Am Dam.

N’DJAMENA, Chad, 18 May 2011 – In an effort to eradicate polio in Chad, UNICEF is stepping up its social mobilization efforts at the grassroots levels by mobilizing local authorities, religious leaders, women and youth groups, as well as other influential personalities, through community forums in the most remote and inaccessible regions of the country.
With 52 cases of poliovirus certified in the country over the past six months, twice the total registered in 2010, Chad has been identified as a public health emergency at the international level in the fight for the global eradication of polio. The country has also declared the polio situation a “national emergency”.

“In hard-to-reach areas, we need to mobilize all community forces and decision-makers to reach as many unimmunized children as possible and ensure more equitable coverage”, explained UNICEF Country Representative, Dr Marzio Babille.

The community forums, held in four Eastern Chad health districts where cases of polio have recently been certified, provided the opportunity to refute previous immunization coverage figures that were reportedly well above 100 per cent, as many identified villages have never received immunization services, including polio vaccine.

Participants also discussed common misconceptions on polio vaccination and made the commitment to act as ambassadors in their communities.. In Eastern Chad, many rumors about vaccination remain entrenched among the local population, such as that it reduces the fertility of girls and boys, that it contains swine oil, which is unacceptable for a widely Muslim population, or that it makes the children stubborn.

In their final Declaration, the 190 participants to the forum in Am Dam, where four cases of polio are confirmed to date in 2011, committed to abide by vaccination campaigns and “multiply sanitation, hygiene and prevention activities among their community, neighborhoods, households, mosques, markets and schools”.

Though Chad did not report any cases of polio between June 2000 and July 2003, and was presumed to have eradicated polio from its territory at the time, the country has since experienced a resurgence of the epidemic.

Two of the main preconditions to improve immunization coverage and the quality of vaccinations are a well-functioning routine immunization and cold chain system, and the timely delivery of well-preserved vaccines and medicines. In a country like Chad, with very few paved roads, extremely weak infrastructures and indigent and unreliable electricity supply, challenges in these two domains are substantial.

For UNICEF, reaching all unimmunized, marginalized and nomadic children in remote areas is a matter of equity and an absolute necessity and priority, despite the weakness of infrastructures and the accessibility challenges that the country is confronted with.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For further information, please contact:
Hector CALDERON, Chief Communications
Tel + 235 66 36 00 42

Mathias GILLMANN, Communication Specialist
Tel + 235 66 20 17 41

Christian Moen, UNICEF New York
Tel + 1 212 326-7516




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