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Liberating Liberia from polio and measles

Government and communities work together to make the integrated polio-measles vaccination campaign a success

Monrovia, Liberia, 23 April 2010 – "Don’t cry baby. This will keep you healthy and strong," Princess Togba tells her eight-month old daughter Agatha, as she receives two drops of the polio vaccine.

Agatha joined hundreds of infants and young children at the Redemption Hospital in Monrovia today to kick start Liberia’s National Integrated Polio Measles vaccination campaign from 23 to 29 April 2010, targeting 750,000 under-five children in the country.

More than 4,000 vaccinators, supervisors and community volunteers have been mobilized to reach under-five children in every part of the country with the polio and measles vaccine, as well as Vitamin A supplement and de-worming medicine.

Mobile teams as well as fixed temporary vaccination sites have been set up for the campaign.

Liberia is one of the 16 countries in West and Central Africa undertaking this second round of synchronized polio eradication campaign in 2010 targeting more than 77 million under-five children.

Eight countries in the region including Liberia have reported wild polio virus in the last six months.

During the national launching ceremony at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town, Monrovia, officials from the Health Ministry and WHO stressed the importance of vaccinating every child to eradicate polio and measles from Liberia.

Governor Richard Tobii of the Borough of New Kru Town emphasized on the importance of people’s participation in the campaign and appealed to his community people, and mothers and fathers, for their vital involvement in kicking polio and measles out of Liberia. 

In a similar  statement released during the day, the UNICEF Representative  for Liberia, Ms. Isabel Crowley said, "We should especially make a mention of the more than 4,000 vaccinators, supervisors and community volunteers going out to villages and towns for the next seven days, and wish them the very best. Their efforts and hard work is vital to vaccinating every child below 5 years to eradicate measles and polio out of Liberia."

Almost seven years have passed since the end of the 14 year civil conflict and Liberia is fast developing to make up for lost time. But there is still a lot of work to be done, especially in improving road access and communication to many areas. 

"It’s not easy for our mobile vaccination teams to reach every household," says Jusu Watson, one of the supervisors in Monrovia.

"Monrovia is okay but in the interior districts, vaccination teams sometimes have to walk for hours just to reach one house. But we are trying our best. We cannot sit back and let polio and measles cripple our children."

Community radios, traditional communicators and folk announcers are playing a key role in ensuring that families hear about the national vaccination campaign.

With low literacy rate and limited access to television, most Liberians rely on the radio for news and information. 

UNICEF is supporting the government in working closely with UNMIL Radio and more than 20 community radio stations spread across the country. 

Anthony Allison, the station manager of Jam Radio in the south eastern county of Maryland says, "We’re trying to provide maximum airtime for polio and measles messages through announcements, news and jingles. We have to help our community and families become aware and get rid of polio and measles once and for all."

The UN in Liberia is providing the government as much support as possible for the campaign to succeed.

UNICEF is providing technical and financial support for communications, and supply of 902,260 doses of polio vaccine and 640,000 doses of the measles vaccine in addition to supply of Vitamin A and mebendazole; WHO is providing technical support as well as funds for logistics, monitoring, transportation and allowances for vaccination teams; and the UN Mission in Liberia is supporting the campaign through radio broadcasts and mobilization of traditional communicators. 

Back at the Redemption hospital, baby Agatha has stopped crying and Princess Togba is happy that her daughter received all the vaccinations.

"I will also tell my friends and neighbours to bring their children," she promises with a smile, as she leaves the vaccination site.  

For more information, please contact: 
Miraj Pradhan, UNICEF Liberia, Tel: +231 6 282 074;



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