A royal boost to a polio campaign

“Our resources may be modest, but our voice in the realm is formidable,” said Muleke

By Tauquir Ahmad Khan
UNICEF Uganda/2022/Khan
25 February 2022

Uganda recently concluded a responsive Polio supplementary immunization activity (SIAs). Conducted by the Government of Uganda in January 2022 with the ‘Novel Oral Polio Vaccine (nOPV2), the National house-to-house Polio immunisation campaign attained the highest ever administrative vaccination coverage of over 111 per cent.

The campaign’s monumental success underscores rigorous preparatory exercises undertaken by Uganda’s Ministry of Health (MoH) with support from Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners. At the fore of the campaign preparations, UNICEF supported the MoH in areas of cold chain management, logistics, vaccine management, and demand generation for nOPV2 introduction through advocacy, communication, and social mobilisation (ACSM) interventions. 

UNICEF supported MoH to procure over 10.9 million nOPV2 doses in October 2021, as well as undertaking national awareness generation activities for the campaign. Besides using conventional and innovative media for a pre-campaign messaging approach, the alliance enlisted significant institutional support from key socio-cultural and political entities across the country to create a receptive environment in communities for the campaign. 

Complementing the advocacy efforts at the national level, the district health teams (DHTs) actively engaged the most impactful institutions in their locality. Amid the national flurry of ACSM activities for the upcoming Polio campaign, the DHT of Masaka District again chose to rely on the cultural establishment in the central region of Uganda – the Kingdom of Buganda. 

“Right now, we are supporting the mass Polio campaign,”

said Mr. Jude Muleke. 

Muleke is the Kabaka’s representative in Buddu Ssaza (County) and the Chairperson of all the Chiefs of the Kingdom of Buganda. “I am very grateful to the district health department in Masaka, especially the District Health Officer (DHO), who invited us to come on board.” The Chief’s office holds sway over an area spanning from Luweero to Mutukula town in Kyotera District at the north-western border of Tanzania.

For holding such a mighty office, Jude Muleke, atypically, is a young and unassuming gentleman of humble stock who returned home in 2006 after completing studies in eminent institutes of western Africa. “When I returned from my studies, another destiny awaited me here,” he said. 

He got his breakthrough with the Kingdom in 2009 when the Gombolola (sub county) Chief appointed him as a ‘youth chairperson’ and later to appointed as a ‘Sub- County Chief’ by the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. 

The Kingdom of Buganda has its own administrative and executive structures, including fourteen ministries. Its Ministry of Health envisages ensuring welfare and quality of life for the people of Buganda by enhancing promotive and preventive health services through health education and improving access to health services. In Masaka, Dr. Luguana Joseph represents the Buganda MoH. 

“The Kabaka views health as one of the most serious matters. Hence, we act zealously on all health issues requiring our collaboration,”

said the Chief explaining the Kingdom’s aspirations for its subjects.

“Our resources may be modest, but our voice in the realm is formidable,” he added with pride.

“As soon as the DHO sought our support for the Polio campaign, I wrote to all the officials in the Buganda Kingdom to ensure every child under 5 years of age receives the vital Polio drops,” he said and added, “Already using our calendar of scheduled cadet and council meetings to sensitise our people on the importance of COVID-19 vaccines, we added Polio at the top of our agenda,” said the Chief coming back to the topic of Polio.  

“Drawing from our experience in supporting the health department on other major public health issues such as HIV and AIDS, fistula, and blood donation, we have been using our brand to sensitise caregivers on Polio lately. Right now, I am heading to attend a funeral in the Buvunga sub-county. We expect over a thousand attendees there and I intend to use the occasion to gear up parents, teachers, and community influencers to make the most of the ongoing Polio campaign, and ensure no eligible child in our communities is left unvaccinated,” said the Chief emphatically. 

Among all the public health interventions, the Chief thinks highly of immunisation programmes. “Everyone now knows that immunisation protects people from killer and incapacitating diseases, except a few uninformed inciters seeking unmerited attention. With proper trust-building, however, everyone is going to realise how critical vaccination is,” said the Chief with intent optimism, cutting short the interaction as he wished to set off for the Buvunga funeral. 

With categorical support of the Buganda officials, Masaka District in Central Uganda, achieved 95.6 per cent administrative nOPV2 coverage. UNICEF contributed UGX 20,550,000 (US$5,859) to the district for pre-campaign ACSM activities, and supported the district with  Polio Information, Education nd Communication (IEC) materials including 2,136 English posters, 1,408 Luganda posters, 900 leaflets, 1113 factsheets evenly allocated for religious, cultural and political leaders, 8 factsheets for media, 270 copies of the Q&A booklet, 2,704 flyers, 18 PVC banners and 1,391 training guides. The Masaka DHT engaged key religious groups from Catholic, Anglican, Muslim, and Pentecostal denominations and provided them with relevant IEC materials for distribution among their respective followers, and scripts for announcements during services/prayers or engagements with members of their congregations. 

The district deployed 352 Village Health Team members (VHTs) and an equal number of local councillors (LC1s) for pre-campaign house-to-house sensitization, and intra-campaign mobilization and recording with the vaccination teams. The DHT organized interactive talk shows on Buddu, Centenary, and Impact FM radio stations, and also engaged community radio stations for the Polio campaign announcements at the Bbale and Ddimo landing sites, Nyendo, and Kigamba. For community drives, the district deployed three vehicles, including two hired and one allocated to the DHT. Besides covering the entire district and Masaka town in the pre-campaign period, these vehicles continued Polio campaign announcements in the previously unreached areas during the staggered implementation of the campaign.