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Burkina Faso: second round of polio immunization concludes

Mouniratou Ouzeita, 3, receiving a dose of vaccine
© UNICEF/Burkina/2009/ Nduita
Mouniratou Ouzeita, 3, receiving a dose of vaccine

53 million children under 5 are expected to be reached across 8 West African Countries in a coordinated polio immunization campaign scheduled in two rounds.

Seemingly disturbed as she sees the immunizer presenting to her a dose of vaccine against polio after singing its praises, Mouniratou Ouzeita, 3, falteringly takes one step forward.

Other women from the same courtyard on secteur 30 Ouagadougou outskirt, Burkina Faso’s capital lay it on a bit thick to make the case stronger.

Eventually, the little girl willingly accepts to be vaccinated under a round of applause of immunizers and parents. 

Like some children of peripheral districts of Ouagadougou, Mouniratou had not been vaccinated during the first round of immunization.

On this last day of the second round of national immunization days against polio, immunizers cast their net wide in every nook and cranny of Ouagadougou’s secteur 30, as well as in other cities of Burkina Faso. 
 Ensuring a bright future for Burkina Faso’s children

Outreach strategy remains at the heart of the mechanism put in place to wipe out the crippling disease in Burkina Faso. In the bright early sunshine of Ouagadougou, mobile immunization teams – easily identifiable by their white sleeveless bib where one could read « kick polio out of Burkina Faso», fan out on narrow and dusty streets of Ouagadougou’s outskirts, in search for the children yet to be immunized after two days of immunization campaign. 

"Immunizers, not only go from courtyards to courtyards, but also go on public places to launch calls to parents. This aggressive approach already yields impressive results", says The Extensive Programme on Immunization officer at Secteur 30 Medical centre with surgical outpost (CMA), Saidou Zeba.

The statistics of the sector CMA 30 states the true evidence of this: 4727 children aged 0-5 years have been immunized with additional doses of vaccine against polio, which goes beyond the original target of 4,661 children of the same age bracket.

Unlike the first immunization round, the CMA has not reported cases of wild polio viruses, though Ouagadougou still experience resurgence of some polio cases this year. Of the five confirmed cases of polio in Burkina this year, four are record in Ouagadougou.

It is in this spirit that is the appeal of Mrs. Chantal Compaore, First Lady of Burkina Faso, during the launching ceremony of Synchronized National Immunization days last week: "I encourage administrative authorities, religious, health, parents of children under five, to work towards ensuring that all our children are immunized (...) let us do it for our children, let us do it to ensure a bright future of Burkina Faso.”
Addressing vaccine refusal

The Government of Burkina Faso is determined to eradicate polio with the support of UNICEF, the World Health Organization and Rotary International. They are leading the initiative to make it a reality. Burkina Faso’s Health Minister, Seydou Bouda expresses what’s the Government’s view on this "We hope that in joining our forces the way we do, we will be able to wipe out polio from West Africa".

UNICEF has been providing routine vaccines and accessories, as well as ensuring that cold chain equipments at all levels are functional. This includes providing refrigerators and make sure they function at all time and supply the health centers with cold chain equipment, including cold boxes, vaccine carriers…

Unicef Representative in Burkina, Hervé Périès reflects the commitment of the Children’s fund about the immunization: "All Burkina Faso’s children should be immunized to avoid their falling prey to preventable diseases like polio. This is our strong commitment".

The two rounds of Synchronized National Immunization Days underwent some resistances in Ouagadougou, especially among families whose parents are illiterate.

Saidou Zeba summarizes research on the equation as follows: "when the mother is literate, she understands better the issues of immunization can convince her husband, reluctant and engage the whole family through. However, when the mother is not literate, it is often very difficult to count on the collaboration of the father. "

The other obstacle is the influence of certain religious and customary beliefs. To break the vicious circle of distrust in the heart of this refusal, Saidou Zeba and its staff have developed some negotiation skills directed to the reluctant.

"The exercise entails a lot of patience, but eventually produces impressive results", he says. The second round of polio immunization has targeted more than 4 million children aged 0-5 years countrywide.

 By Jean-Jacques Nduita



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