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Zadaya: Polio victims’ colliding with ‘enemies’ of vaccines

In Borno State, the apathy is the same. But some persons who fell victim of the disease, apparently because they weren’t administered the polio vaccines…

In Borno State, the apathy is the same. But some persons who fell victim of the disease, apparently because they weren’t administered the polio vaccines as kids, have grouped themselves to launch a different kind of fight to kick out polio in the state.

Experts have said that poor hygiene has been a major reason for the continuous existence of polio in addition to misconceptions. Mustapha Umar of the World Health Organization (WHO), said polio vaccine was developed to prevent infection of the polio virus. He condemned speculations by people who are making comments ignorantly that the vaccine prevents women from getting pregnant, or is meant to curtail the Muslim population, as was being canvassed in some quarters. He added that research has shown that a child with the polio virus can infect at least 200 children and since the polio virus is easily transmitted in dirty environments, and the women are the custodians of the children, who nurture and care for the children, they must ensure proper hygiene.

Count Down, to Polio Eradication, a monthly, publication of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) of Nigeria, said 383 children were paralysed by polio in 198 local government areas from 27 states as at November 6, 2009. Borno recorded 20 cases, and is placed fourth after Kano with 102, Bauchi with 43 and Katsina with 36 respectively. Kaduna, Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa all had 16 cases each; while Yobe, Niger and Zamfara have 15 cases each. Ogun had 14 cases, Nasarawa and Gombe nine each; Benue and Delta had seven each; Kogi and Plateau five each while Bayelsa and Lagos have four each. Kwara, Ebonyi and Oyo all have two each while the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Adamawa, Edo and Abia, have one case each.

If we have to go by an earlier statement of the WHO representative, if an infected child can transmit the virus to 200 others, then the 20 cases that were recorded in Borno State could easily multiply into 4,000 cases, hence the need for all stakeholders to act.

The Zadaya Polio Association of Nigeria, a group consisting of polio survivors in Borno State have taken up the challenge for a new kind of campaign. The group recently seized the 2010 National Immunization Plus Days (IPDs) against polio which held weeks ago and took campaigns (head to head) to women in Islamic schools with one ‘clear’ message: ‘the vaccines are safe’. Perhaps the thinking was, tackling misconceptions in the midst of those with more stringent views or so, against the polio vaccines. To the Zadaya group, they wanted to conquer the ‘strong before the weak’ and as such, the group went to Mafa and Maiduguri Metropolitan Councils and visited Sheikh Mahmud Jafar Islamiyya at Zannari ward and Tashihul Aqirah Islamiyya for the memorization of the Qur’an in Kalleri ward, all in Mafa Local Government Area. In Maiduguri, the Gamboru I Ward Weekend Islamiyya for women was visited. In attendance at all gatherings were women of child bearing ages, teenagers and instructors of the Islamic schools.  

The unhygienic condition of the selected communities made them ‘most’ relevant for the exercise. In Zannari for example, children defecate along refuse dump sites in the open. Some play in the gutter or on refuse dumps. The dirty environment makes it easy for the polio virus to spread in the neighbourhood because the children cannot be restricted to a place and denied from playing or moving around.

At each of the locations, the women learnt that polio was transmitted through an infected child’s faeces, which may be by air or with direct contact with food items. They were also told that because of the ability of the virus to remain undetected, the symptoms may not manifest at the early stage. Therefore, mothers have to be extra careful each time they clean up their children who defecate. They must wash their hands with soap or detergent with water or with ash from firewood to kill the virus that causes the infection. Environmental sanitation was also noted as a method of preventing against its spread.

During each session, the Zadaya group led by Adama Balla, warned the women against refusing to immunize their children against the polio virus, saying it could cause permanent disabilities and challenges. And using herself as an example, Adama added: “I became a polio survivor because 39 years ago, the oral polio vaccine was not taken from house to house. It was given at the healthcare centre, in front of the district or ward heads’ house. My mother went to the healthcare centre more than seven times. But each time she went, she was told that the vaccines had finished. Because she was a teacher and had to report at work by 7am before going for the vaccine, she always arrived after the health team had finished administering the vaccines and before she knew what was happening, I had been infected with the polio virus. There is no place we did not go in search of cure. I even went as far as England and was operated on several times. Even though my senses were restored, the damage had already been done. I was crippled!”       Cont’d  on page 45

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