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Immunization campaigns in Benin contribute towards making the world polio-free

UNICEF Benin/2011/Boya
© UNICEF Benin/2011/Boya

COTONOU, Benin, 29 October 2011 – The sun is almost at its zenith when the vaccination team arrives in one of the housing areas of Sekandji, a village located in the suburbs of Cotonou. Mothers and housekeepers who were informed of the visit of the vaccination team are bustling around to bring their children, under-five years, to the vaccination agents.

Two drops of polio in the mouth of three children and a vitamin A tablet for one of child who is nine months old. Julienne, one of the vaccinators first checked the age of children and at the end of the process filled the monitoring form and moved on. The scenario is the same in all areas.

Thanks to the substantial grant from Saudi Arabia, Benin is one of the countries involved in the 2011 Synchronized Immunization Days. The third round of the 2011 National Immunization Days against polio, planned from October 29 to 31, is unfolding. It is synchronized with other countries of the sub-region. “Mothers have accepted this vaccination campaign,” says Julienne, who has not encountered any reluctance after the second day of the immunization campaign. That is a good point as during former polio campaigns, there was a kind of vaccination fatigue amongst the population.

UNICEF Benin/2011/Boya
© UNICEF Benin/2011/Boya

Like Julienne, 19,952 vaccinator agents are crossing the country to bring to each targeted child the precious vaccine. Children under five will receive two drops of the polio vaccine. Additionally, those between six to 59 months will receive a vitamin A tablet in addition to the polio vaccine. The door-to-door strategy adopted for polio campaigns will lead the vaccinators to mop up  targeted children in houses, markets, schools, faith venues, and make sure that no child is left out among the 3,180,398 children in the region aged zero to 59 months, who are the beneficiaries of this campaign.

Julienne and her teammate are really committed. “A child who is left aside is a threat for other children because the virus that is in a “fertile land” could spread over and contaminate the entire neighborhood,” Julienne asserted.  

The campaign involved 5,122 town criers for informing the masses all the way to the most remote places.

Benin was in the process of definitely kicking out polio some years ago, but unfortunately a surge in polio infections was recorded in 2008 (6 cases) and 2009 (20 cases in the first quarter).  Actually, the country is surrounded by infected countries where the wild polio virus is still circulating. However, since April 2009, no case of wild polio virus has been reported. Vaccinating all children, ensuring acute surveillance and sustaining communication activities are part of the efforts witnessed so far. Surveillance for instance is reinforced in the Northern department of Alibori that has a common border with Nigeria. All these endeavors could lead soon to a polio-free country, and Benin is likely to request the certification of the polio eradication in the near future.



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