Posted by Stella Roy on Nov 25, 2017
How Nigeria is working passionately to remain polio free.
by PDG Stella Roy
I have just returned from 10 days in Nigeria, with a team from Canada, USA and Denmark, led by Ann Lee Hussey, to immunize for polio. We went to Yola, Adamawa State in the northeast of Nigeria close to where the last four cases of polio were found in August 2016. We went to work with the Rotarians, the WHO, the Gates Foundation doctor and UNICEF. We also went to thank the health care workers for the all the work they do and the mothers for vaccinating their children.
At the current time a higher percentage of children are vaccinated in Nigeria than in North America which is a sad fact.
We were at the health centers at 6.30 am with the health care workers (HCW) and went in twos with the HCW, a recorder, a Rotarian, a Rotaractor and usually a security man, door to door to catch all the children. Once we had visited the house the recorder wrote in chalk on the gate or door, how many children in the house, how many were vaccinated and which day we were there. The National Immunization program goes for a week and we went each day to different villages, schools and churches.
It was very hot by 11 am. Once our routes were completed we went back to the center and at 3 pm there was a meeting of all the leaders from the community to record the numbers of children vaccinated, the challenges and the good things that occurred that day. If there were refusals the reason was discussed and the next day someone else went to speak one on one with the family. In one area the markers were old and not working so that was corrected the next day.
Then at 5 pm there was a state meeting with WHO, UNICEF, Gates Dr, CRIDC ( the group that check the water and stool samples) the minister of health, doctors and the Rotarians to again check on the challenges throughout the Adamawa state. No stone is left unturned.
The most moving part for our team was a visit to two IDP camps (Internal Displacement Camps) where the people who have fled Borno from Boko Haram. Some of the escaped girls from the kidnapping several years ago were there. We vaccinated there.
Some of the women were there for 10 years and the children don’t know any difference. They have a meager existence having to forage for food but they all looked happy as children do.
Let us hope with this extensive vaccinating system that occurs at least four times a year in these NE states will keep Nigeria and Africa polio free. At the same time similar campaigns are going on in Chad, Cameroon and Niger and children are being immunized going in and out of Borno.
Worldwide, the countdown to eradication is truly on with only 15 cases of wild polio in the world in 2017 (compared to 37 in 2016). There have been 10 cases in Afghanistan and 5 in Pakistan. Nigeria has not had a case since August 2016.