Insurgency may not completely affect polio vaccination

• Hit and Run approach, very effective- Nigeria Polioplus chairman

By Doyin Ojosipe

Despite troubling insurgents attacks on the Nigerian community, huge success has been recorded with polio vaccination; with just a few cases of polio infection from the north east.

There’s been speculations and fear that the deadly security challenge in the country might stem the plans to achieve a polio virus free nation.

This even as some health workers were killed in the incessant attacks in the northeast by Boko Haram insurgents.

Polio is a virus that hits the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis and the World Health Organization has warned that children everywhere are at risk, until it has been completely wiped out.

The World Health Organization(WHO) and UNICEF has linked causes of polio to lack of improved water supply, bad sanitation practices and poor hygiene, of which many Nigerians suffer and indulge in.

The fight against polio infection had met stiff neck in the northeast in 2003/2004, when rumors had gone virile against its vaccination as a means to poison northerners and get them infertile; a political agenda that endangered many northern Nigerians, while the virus spread to some neighboring West African Countries.

And now increasing bomb attacks that has swept through the northeast has become a thing of concern even as health workers are repelled from visiting the affected areas.

However, there has emerge, a beam of hope as the Nigerian military offensive against the insurgents has paved way for unit of mobile health workers to adopt the hit and run method to get children in the affected areas vaccinated.

According to Aid workers, using ‘hit and run’ approach is the best as mobile units can now race into dangerous places when security improves and then get out quickly; this has enabled vaccination in zones that previously were off limits.

Abdulrahman Tunji Funsho, chairman of the Nigeria PolioPlus Committee of Rotary International, one of the main organizations behind polio eradication  campaign, in an interview with Reuters, expressed hope, saying that “We have not gotten this close to getting rid of polio (in Nigeria) before.”

Funsho  added,  that  there has  been a noticeable improvement in the polio eradication programme as only four cases has been reported this year, as against 54 cases, last year.

He also said that the insurgent attacks and military offensive has led many residents to migrate to more peaceful areas, which has made it easier for health workers to locate and immunize their children.

However, spokeswoman for the UNICEF in Nigeria, Melissa Corkum, has noted that there were still many no go areas with about 300,000 child population which has not been accessed due to the insurgency.

Corcum added that one area that can’t be despised is given more attention to community concern while engaging the traditional leaders as one cannot afford to take chances with damages posed by malicious rumor.

In her words “What happened with Nigeria and the north was a game changer because … we realized the power of rumor. Since then, there has been more attention given to community concerns and more engagement with traditional and religious leaders.”

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