Polio Eradication in Kano State – Kwankwaso fires dozens of officials handling Polio immunization

Another news piece on Polio courtesy of Daily Trust Newspaper:
Dozens of officials handling polio immunization in Kano State have been fired because they were using the exercise as a “money-making venture”, Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has said.
Speaking on Saturday during the launch of a new phase of the polio immunisation exercise, the governor said he directed the replacement of all managerial officers because they were found to be engaged in corruption thereby retarding the anti-polio campaign.
Kwankwaso did not give a specific number of the officials affected, but he said they were of the level of director downwards at the state level as well as immunisation officers of the 44 local government areas.
Polio is surging in parts of the North, after years of efforts to eradicate it appeared to be working. Stakeholders in the campaign, which receives international donor funding, last year set 2013 as end date for the disease.
But experts are skeptical of this dateline, as polio stages a comeback in Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi and other states in the North.
Kwankwaso said he was worried that efforts to eradicate polio were not yielding the desired success.
He said there were still pockets of rejection of the polio vaccine in parts of the state, and warned that his administration will take measures to enforce the immunisation to save vulnerable children.
Nigeria is among the only three polio-endemic nations in the world, the others being Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Years of campaign to eradicate the disease in Nigeria were sabotaged by suspicion of vaccine contamination in 2004, which led to massive boycott of immunisation.
The rejections have waned in many places, and over the past two years stakeholders were upbeat on the eradication process.
But this year has seen many new infections in several states of the North.

Polio Eradication: “a Global Public Health Emergency”!

The 65th WHA has declared Polio eradication a “Global Public Health Emergency” the statement is weighty, Here’s a quick summary of the implications of the World Health Assembly’s Resolution:
1.) Polio eradication has reached a tipping point. While the world is more than 99% of the way towards eradicating the disease, a funding shortfall has already caused vaccination activities to have been cut back – putting vulnerable communities at risk from the disease.
2.) If we fail to eradicate polio, the consequences will be disastrous. Research has shown that the world would soon see more than 200,000 cases a year. This is why the continued transmission of polio is now an emergency.
3.) This resolution gives countries greater powers to combat polio. For instance, they can choose to require travellers to and from polio-infected countries to be vaccinated against polio. Polio-infected countries have been urged to draw up emergency action plans for combating the virus.
4.) The resolution also calls for the World Health Organization’s 194 Member States to fully fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Declaring polio an emergency for global public health is an important step forward, yet we will only see the end of polio if the funding gap is filled. This is why we are asking world leaders to go beyond words and ensure that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is fully funded.
We are about the end of the Q2 2012, the number WPVs are 30 already, Unless our politicians and other leadership are serious, only then perhaps, the target of 2012 is already a mirage.

Northern Traditional Rulers Committee meet to strategise on Polio Eradication

This update on Polio Eradication in Northern Nigeria is courtesy of Daily Trust Newspapers:
Nineteen emirs and chiefs under the auspices of Northern Traditional Rulers Committee on polio eradication Saturday converged on Katsina State to evolve measures of eradicating the child killer disease in the country before the end of the year.
Chairman of the committee, the Shehu of Bama, Alhaji Kari Umar Ibn El-Kanemi, told Governor Shehu Shema, during a courtesy visit that the committee was set up by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, in 2009 during an interactive session of northern emirs held in Kaduna. El-Kanemi said the traditional rulers decided to set up the committee  to assist the Federal Government in the on-going crusade against the child killer disease.
“Initially, the meeting only held in Kaduna, but later we decided to rotate it among northern states. So far, it has been held in Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States. During our last meeting in Sokoto State, the Sultan of Sokoto mandated all traditional rulers to do everything possible within their powers to eradicate polio in their respective domains. Our aim is to eradicate polio from Nigeria by the end of this year,” he said.
Responding, Governor Ibrahim Shehu Shema said he recently released over N219 million to the state’s task force on eradication of polio and routine immunization for eradication of the disease.

Parents who reject Oral Polio Vaccine to be prosecuted.

This story was culled from Daily Trust Newspaper:
The Jigawa State government yesterday said it will prosecute parents who reject the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) for their children in the ongoing immunisation exercise in the state.

The Commissioner for Health, Dr Abubakar Tafida, told newsmen that defaulters will be sentenced to between six months and one year imprisonment without an option of fine.

Tafida said this at the beginning of the October round of Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) exercise in Dutse. He said that the state House of Assembly had enacted a law which was assented to by the governor to deal with “anybody who rejects the vaccine and also to promote participation in the exercise.”

“The assembly has enacted a law to punish those who reject polio vaccination which will be enforced during the ongoing immunisation exercise,” Tafida said.

He said that the state had also adopted effective campaign measures to sensitise communities on the importance of presenting their wards for vaccination and also mobilise participation in the exercise.

“Oral polio vaccine was administered to my sons, the children of the deputy governor and the speaker. It is a deliberate attempt to correct the wrong misconception about the vaccine.

“This is to show to people that the vaccine is not harmful,” he added.

In his remark, the Emir of Dutse, Alhaji Nuhu Sunusi, appealed to parents in the state to present their children for immunisation. Sunusi said the emirate council had directed district, village and ward heads to monitor the exercise in their respective wards.

“Parents have no reason to reject the vaccine. We must contribute to ensure total eradication of the disease,” Sunusi said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Emir led a team of vaccinators and personally administered oral polio vaccine to children of the state Deputy Governor, Ahmed Muhammad, and the Speaker, Alhaji Adamu Ahmad.

More than 1.3 million children are targeted in the ongoing immunisation exercise across the 27 local government areas of the state.

Birth control row hits polio eradication in Nigeria  

I came across this interesting piece of article in a Daily Trust Newspaper as written by Judd-Leonard Okafor:
When President Good luck Jonathan made his famous pronouncement about needing to control Nigeria’s exploding population through birth control, he didn’t anticipate how it would impact efforts to kick polio out of the country.
Weeks after his announcement, ongoing campaign to break transmission of polio this year has taken the first blow.
Polio eradication has historically faced tough resistance among residents mostly in the north of the country where people often feared that the vaccine came with a side effect: to render young girl children infertile in a bid to control population.
It showed up in Nasarawa A, a ward in Chanchaga council area of Niger. This time, residents cited the president’s comments when they refused vaccines meant for their children.
The ward, one of 11 sandwiched in the council area, has not been known for stiff resistance in recent past. Despite the comments, it recorded only a handful of non-compliant households (where parents refused the vaccine) on the first of four days of massive vaccination planned this July.
That’s because officials saw the problem coming, said a field supervisor.
In days before the immunisation took off, said a local World Health Organisation staff, officials sat with religious leaders and explained that the president’s comment was not final—and birth control couldn’t become legislation without going through the national assembly.
“We told them they have representation in the Senate and House of Representatives who will speak for them,” said the official. Similar assurance was broadcast on Radio Kaduna, he noted, and people listened.
Broken covers
Mixing a shaky polio eradication programme with murky politics of birth control is calling for trouble. Already, some northern states not on the list of high-risk areas in the north have seen record new cases of polio.
Immunisation still needs stronger political will to see it through. Officials meeting for to review the day’s work in the chambers at Chanchaga council secretariat believe they see the will in the local government politicians who sit in on the review.
It was always the case, they explain. Before they simply met under a tree in an open space, quoted figures from the field and dispersed. Now a lot has changed, the local WHO official said.
But pockets of resistance remain, and with them newer problems. Vaccine carries in use since mass immunisation rounds started years ago have worn out.
In May, field workers in Birnin-Kebbi swaddled the worn-out lids of vaccine carriers in polythene bags and foam, and vigorous complaints prompted release of 10 new carriers for the council area.
Field workers in Minna sought new improvisation: thermos food flask of nearly same capacity as the vaccine carriers. They stuff the plastic flasks with ice boxes to keep the vaccine within optimally cool for the four, five hours it takes to administer all the vaccine doses they carry in a day’s work.
But that depends on parents accepting the vaccines. Vaccination teams combing through households in Chanchaga and Bosso still come up against households who don’t “give us any response,” complained one field worker.
“He [the head of the household] didn’t even answer us. Zamu koma anjima tare da shi.” He meant the team would go back later together with him—him being the ward focal person, local facilitators who accompany field teams.
Such focal persons are becoming crucial to breaking through resistance.
Needed links
Officials reviewing Saturday’s work prepared to visit churches during service the following Sunday, but the absence of representatives from Christian Association of Nigeria and Rotary left plans in the air.
“We need them to liaise with churches so that we have things easier,” admitted a top official in Minna, amidst worry over low coverage.
While some are not getting the right coverage, other residents in Soje find fault with the rounds. A field vaccinator who worked there on Saturday reported cases of noncompliance. “They are complaining that their children have received vaccines and why are we coming around to [vaccinate] them again.”
Another WHO supervisor said noncompliance among Fulani dwellers of Soje was “critical”.  She recorded 15 households who refused, telling her “they don’t go to hospital, they don’t take vaccines [or injections]—it is not part of them.”
Many of the cases go unreported and undocumented, she suspects, and blames it on field vaccinators being indifferent, concluding—even before being told—that the households have no children under age five.
In general, concern about noncompliance isn’t shocking anymore. It’s the biggest entrenched front in polio eradication, but “we are more concerned where ward focal persons are around and nothing is done,” observed one official.
It is the task of focal persons, after the day’s work, to revisit noncompliant homes in hope of turning their no to yes.
A bigger picture
Focusing on statistics alone can paint the wrong picture in polio eradication.
On the first day of vaccination this month, field workers reported figures far above or below the numbers they targeted. In one ward, only one newborn was vaccinated for the first time (known as zero dose).
There are as much children growing out of the age-five bracket as there are children growing into it.
Newborns and migration also swell the group. So less number of children under five immunised can sometimes be cancelled out by more newborns.
When children move out of one location, they shrink the numbers there and swell numbers of new neighbourhoods their families enter. This way, immunising fewer children than targeted may not necessarily be underachievement, explains a WHO official. What’s important is to get the right children—those who need the vaccine.
Witchcraft plus
Vaccinators are sure they will continue to get the children—despite the absent of incentives.
So-called pluses—sweets given to children, soap and salt given to their mothers—are used to entice households to take the vaccine. That’s the “plus” in the programme’s name—Immunisation Plus Days.
Pluses were pulled from Niger’s immunisation programme last year, according to one official, in the wake of rumours about secret cults and witchcraft.
The rumour was that children could be initiated through petty offerings of sweets and biscuits. Even teachers who sold such items to children at schools stopped.
“Imagine your child wakes up in the morning and tells you they went to a [night] meeting with their teacher,” explained one official. The mental picture was chilling.
However, the numbers of children receiving vaccines in Niger are comfortably high, compared with states seeing more noncompliance despite using pluses.
It has managed to overcome bickering over incentives. Now it must face ideologies that could scuttle the efforts. Such is the impact of statements regarding birth control.
One at a time, officials still hope to bring those refusing on grounds of the pronouncement to see reason.
The day team couldn’t finish what it started. By evening, another team including the ward focal persons will visit homes of sceptics. If that fails, another revisit is scheduled next day.

The End of Polio: Polio’s last percentage – Bill and Melinda Gate’s Foundation

I came across this on the internet and as an agent of social change, fighting inequity across the globe, I felt duty bound to spread the message. It reads as follows:
Polio – a disease which has disabled millions and pulled people further into poverty – has been reduced by 99% over the past 25 years.
Global efforts have delivered incredible progress: immunising more than 2 billion children and saving more than 8 million children from life-long paralysis or death. In January, the world reached a remarkable milestone in the fight to eradicate polio – 12 months without a case of polio in India for the first time in history.
But progress towards eradication is at risk: with the critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative constrained by a funding gap of almost US$1 billion for 2012/13 – threatening international polio eradication efforts.
That’s why the Global Poverty Project is working with partners to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and make the end of polio reality.

We can all play a role in ensuring that polio is eradicated.

Last year, more than 20,000 ordinary people made their voices heard and helped convince five world leaders, together with Bill Gates, to announce an additional $118 million in funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This year, we’re calling on delegates to the United Nations General Assembly to announce further funding for polio eradication, closing the funding gap that’s currently leaving millions of children vulnerable to polio.