Just twenty-five years ago, thousands of children in Africa were left paralyzed due to the poliovirus. Now, Africa is to be declared free from wild polio by the independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission.
Polio is a virus that spreads from person to person, usually through contaminated water. It can lead to paralysis by attacking the nervous system. It usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis or even death when breathing muscles are affected. There is no cure, but the polio vaccine protects children for life.
Nigeria is the last African country to be declared free from wild polio, having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago. When it comes to solving the polio crisis in Nigeria, winning the trust of communities was key, as many people rejected the polio vaccine. Apparently, survivors played a crucial role in persuading people to accept the vaccination campaign.
“Many rejected the polio vaccine, but they see how much we struggle to reach them, sometimes crawling large distances, to speak to them,” said Mishabu Lawan Didi. “We ask them: ‘Don’t you think it is important for you to protect your child not to be like us?’”
From polio survivors to traditional and religious leaders, school teachers, parents, volunteers, and health workers, a huge coalition developed to defeat polio. Working together, they traveled to remote communities to immunize children and effectively rid the country of Polio.