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Nigeria's anti-polio drive failing

Posted by By Aminu Abubakar on 2006/07/03 | Views: 292 |

Nigeria's anti-polio drive failing

BADUME - Habibu Garba and his five colleagues are not happy. Posted for three days to a vaccination centre, under a neem tree sheltering them from blazing tropical sun.....

BADUME - Habibu Garba and his five colleagues are not happy. Posted for three days to a vaccination centre, under a neem tree sheltering them from blazing tropical sun, they have only vaccinated 32 children against poliovirus.

The small farming village of Badume, 15 kilometres north of Kano, has recorded a very low turnout of children, like the rest of the area.

"We have not immunised as much children as we expected because people here only take their children to hospital when they are sick, they do not mind to take them for any vaccination", Garba, said as he adjusted the cover of a polio kit resting on a small wooden bench.

"We need to meet them in their homes, which we are about to start today. It is not that they reject the vaccines, it is just that they don't have the culture of bringing their children for immunisation", he explained.

"I will allow them to immunise my three children if they come to my home as they did some months ago", said Baballe Adamu, a 47-year old farmer.

The National Programme on Immunisation (NPI) in collaboration with United Nations health agencies on Thursday started a five-day immunisation campaign tagged "Immunisation Plus" of about 10 million children under five in 11 northern states with high prevalence of polio cases.

The NPI, with technical assistance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, hopes to stamp out polio from Nigeria by the end of 2007.

The five-day campaign is also immunising under-fives against measles, diphtheria, pertusis and tetanus, tagged "The Plus" in addition to the administration of polio vaccine.

"We are recording low turn-out at the vaccination sites", Mahmud Mustapha, NPI Kano state Zonal co-ordinator said in his office.

The low turnout compared to the first round of vaccinations in May is partly because the state and local government authorities did not supply the expected doses plus parents are worried about the pains and fever associated with the "The Plus", he said.

"In fact, the pains and fever a child suffers after the vaccination are an indication that he is developing an immune response which parents are not aware of due to the low level of health education", Mustapha said.

For two days health workers administered polio vaccines at fixed posts in thousands of wards across the 11 mainly muslim states.

However on Saturday the health workers started a house-to-house immunisation to ensure that they reach the 10 million children the NPI intends to immunise.

Nigeria, which is the most populous country in Africa, has the most polio cases in the world, accounting for 83 percent of global Poliovirus cases and 95 percent of all polio cases in Africa, according to a WHO report.

Some northern states halted the polio immunisation drive for 11 months in 2004 and 2005 when radical muslim clerics claimed the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girls infertile as part of US-led western plot to depopulate Africa.

Kano, which was the first state to suspend polio vaccination has recorded 213 of the 501 polio cases in Nigeria this year, according to NPI statistics.

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