News

    Polio Still a Problem in Parts of Nigeria

    Volunteers administer polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria, (File)
    Volunteers administer polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria, (File)
    Anne Look

    Resistance to polio vaccination remains in northern Nigeria, and the region is repeatedly blamed for cross-border polio outbreaks. Authorities in one state are threatening to prosecute parents who do not immunize their children, while health workers in Borno state are partnering with traditional chiefs as they try to control a recent outbreak. Outreach strategies have netted mixed results.

    Nigeria is one of three polio-endemic countries left in the world. It is a distinction that President Goodluck Jonathan called "embarrassing" earlier this month.

    The president has created a new task force to eradicate the highly preventable disease by 2015. He has doubled government funding for the efforts to $30 million per year.

    Health workers, however, say the real barriers remain in the minds of parents.

    In 2004, community leaders in Nigeria's primarily Muslim north called for a boycott of the vaccine amid rumors that it was a Western plot to sterilize Muslim children. Scientific analyses disproved the rumors, but the damage was done. Polio cases exploded in subsequent years, as health workers struggled to reassure parents.

    Nigeria's far northeastern Borno state has launched a door-to-door immunization campaign aimed at vaccinating five million children. Local media is reporting eight cases of polio there so far this year.

    Borno State Health Commissioner, Dr. Alma Anas Kolo, says there was a case of polio resulting in paralysis reported just last month, a two-year-old girl named Aisha.

    "Aisha's case is one in 1000," said Kolo. "What that means is that we have about 200 cases of children similar to Aisha that are undetected in her own community."

    Polio is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects children under five years of age. It can cause irreversible paralysis, and even death. However, the disease can almost always be prevented by multiple doses of the oral polio vaccine.

    Borno State has drafted traditional chiefs and religious leaders to spread the message about immunization.

    The Shehu, or local monarch, of Borno State, Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai Al-Amin El-Kanemi, says the government would not be giving out something dangerous.

    "So therefore the question of taking polio vaccine is dangerous, please let us forget this," said El-Kanemi. "Let us interest our wards, let us interest our colleagues and everybody. All hands must be on deck for success of the campaign."

    Borno shares a triangular border with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. Efforts there are key to controlling cross-border transmission. Borno state is also the base of operations for the militant Islamic sect, Boko Haram. Growing insecurity has crippled vaccination efforts in the past year.

    Authorities in neighboring Kano state say they have not recorded a single case of polio this year thanks to more controversial measures. Security personnel escort health workers as they go door-to-door dolling out vaccines. Parents who refuse face jail time. The strategy has sparked national debate about the constitutionality of forcing someone to be vaccinated.   

    Pockets of resistance to immunization remain throughout the North, often drawing as much on ignorance, about how the vaccine works, as a generalized distrust of the government.

    Tommi Laulajainen is chief polio communications officer for the U.N. Children's Fund in Nigeria. UNICEF collects data on why communities refuse the vaccine, which needs to be administered on four separate occasions to give a child full protection.

    "Reasons they might state is that maybe this vaccine is not safe," said Laulajainen. "They are sometimes questioning why there are so many rounds of the polio campaign. Some of the reasons are also religiously driven and there are some of the Islamic sects that may not be totally behind the polio campaign in northern Nigeria. Some of the other reasons are also linked directly to the community's unhappiness with the government services that are available in the villages and settlements. They state that all we get is polio campaigns. Why aren't you bringing us water and better roads and health clinics."

    He says traditional leaders can be very effective ambassadors, however the strategy is still underutilized and inconsistent.

    "The traditional leaders are very effective in resolving refusals when they occur, but they maybe should be much more engaged in promoting the vaccinations before the actual refusals start appearing," he said.

    He said UNICEF has been training mothers to become community educators and encourage their more hesitant neighbors to vaccinate their children.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora