In Nigeria, the Polio Free Torch campaign aims to make the country polio-free
By Tommi Laulajainen
|© UNICEF Nigeria/2012/Laulajainen|
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, 5 April 2012 – “I want to call on our brothers and sisters… to lay down their arms and embrace peace and dialogue,” announced Kashim Shettima, the Governor of Borno State, at the state launch of the Polio Free Torch campaign in the city of Maiduguri.
Borno State has lately been the site of ongoing violence. In August, 2011, an armed group bombed the United Nations House in Abuja, killing 22 people, and Maiduguri continues to witness attacks against police and government officials on a weekly basis.
Conflict can weaken public health systems, but Mr. Shettima is determined to make his state polio-free in spite of the security situation. “I believe where there is a will, there is a way,” he said.
The Polio Free Torch campaign – launched nationally by the Vice President of Nigeria in September 2011 – aims to help achieve the global goal of eradicating polio by the end of 2012.
A survivor of polio works to eradicate the disease for Nigeria's future generations
By Chris Morgan
KANO, Nigeria, 4 August 2011 – Aminu Ahmad sits on the side of the road intently watching his young apprentice weld a wheelchair. “This is our workshop and 80 per cent of the people here have disabilities, but we are working hard, just like anybody else,” he explains.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Chris Morgan reports on community efforts to eradicate polio in Kano State, Nigeria, as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Watch in RealPlayer|
As a child, Mr. Ahmad was stricken by polio, a preventable disease that once affected millions of children each year. “I asked my mother why I was disabled, and she told me I was not immunized’” he says.
Mr. Ahmad trains and employs young people affected by polio, and the best-selling product from his workshop is an innovative wheel chair. But his real aim is to protect future generations from the disease.
As Chairman of the Kano Polio Victims Association, Mr. Ahmad is involved in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
|© UNICEF video|
|Men who were stricken with polio and suffered paralysis in their youth gather together in Nigeria's Kano State.|
The initiative has helped to reduce new infections by 99 per cent since 1988. Now polio is endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.
To completely eradicate the disease, every child needs to be reached. However, in some areas – such as Mr. Ahmad community of Danlassa, in Nigeria’s Kano State – resistance to vaccination remains. So he goes from house to house, speaking to parents about the importance of immunization.
“We who have been affected with polio go and visit communities to explain to them that they should immunize their children,” he says.
|© UNICEF video|
|An intensified communication campaign is working to overcome resistance to polio immunization in high-risk areas of Nigeria.|
Dramatic reduction in cases
As result of these communication campaigns Nigeria has made some remarkable progress. The number of new polio cases fell from almost 400 cases in 2009 to 21 in 2010 – a 95 per cent reduction.
Today, Mr. Ahmad is hopeful that the eradication initiative will finally succeed. “In one or two years,” he says, “Nigeria can eradicate all polio.“
México a la vanguardia en el Síndrome de Post Polio