On Friday the 25th of March 25, 2011, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ms. Fatim Badjie-Janneh launched the Polio Campaign 2011 at the Kanifing Municipal Council.
In his welcoming remarks, the Deputy Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council, who deputized the Mayor, said global statistics indicate that cases of polio have been remarkably low across the globe. However, he said, with fresh outbreaks being reported in Sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the continent, it is prudent for us a nation to intensify our efforts in eradicating this disease.
"Cognizance of the importance of securing a polio free nation, the government of the Gambia in collaboration with national, International, bilateral and multilateral agencies is leaving no stone unturned in making sure that every child counts in the planned polio immunization campaign", Sanyang said.
He said polio remains a substantial cause of disability and according to experts, the vaccines to eradicate it is put in place.
He said his municipality and by extension the entire local government fraternity, will utilize all their resources ,human, material and financial within their means in partnership with development actors to ensure that all those children zero to five years are immunized against polio. He however called on the Alkalos, Ward Councilors, constituency chairpersons and parents to ensure that all their children aged zero to five years are immunized from 25th to 28th march, 2011.
For his part, the WHO representative, Dr. Thomas Sukwa said the Gambia joins 15 countries in West and Central Africa in this synchronized exercise aimed at consolidating those gains so far made and further prevent the importation of polio in areas declared polio free. He revealed that the Gambia was certified in 2004 as polio free and since then, no confirmed polio case has been recorded, adding that this is due to high political commitment and good routine polio immunization coverage of over 90% since 1990.
"The Gambia EPI programme is one of the best in the WHO African Region," He said. "It is indeed gratifying to note that the government of the Gambia remains committed to the global polio eradication initiative." Adding that they target to immunize 391,425 children 0-5 years. He assured of the WHO continue support and partnership in this endeavour until that target of polio free Africa is achieved.
For her part, the Chairperson of the Rotary Polio Plus Committee in the Gambia, Madame Taal said the goal of the Polio Plus Programme is the global certification of polio eradication.
"This can only be achieved through a worldwide concerted efforts of governments, the spearheading partners, all stakeholders and committed individuals who gave financial, technical or moral support ", said Taal.
In her launching statement, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Fatim Badjie-Janneh said the NIDs is one of the strategies of the polio eradication initiative at the world health assembly meeting in May 1988. She said in 1992, four years after the declaration, the Gambia launched its own national polio eradication initiative.
The EPI strategy is three-pronged:
1. Vaccination at base and outreach clinics,
2. Active search for acute flaccid paralysis or AFP, and,
3. National immunization days (NIDs).
She revealed that the Gambia has made tremendous progress under the Polio Eradication Initiative, adding that last year there were five rounds of NIDs, all of which have registered coverages of more than 90%.
She said that the overall goal of EPI is to reduce childhood morbidity and mortality through vaccines from vaccine preventable diseases. The Gambia EPI is battling ten disease conditions. These include tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertusis (Whooping Cough), tetanus, measles, yellow fever, hepatitis B, haemophilus Influenza type b, pnemococcal diseases and poliomyelitis.
She said that EPI has contributed significantly in the reduction of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality. The Gambia has consistently maintained high immunization coverage rates.
"In 2009 during that Global Alliance for Vaccines in Hanoi, Viet nam, the Gambia won an award for maintaining high immunization over the past five years ",She said.
She said poliomyelitis is a vaccine preventable disease that kills and maims children for life. The WHO has estimated that about 265,000 children are needlessly crippled every year in the developing countries alone. If polio is eradicated, a lot of family money that should have gone into treating and caring for a child suffering form the disease will be saved and utilized for other family needs.
She said in 2004,at a meeting of the African Regional Certification Committee held in Tanzania, the Gambia together with seven other countries were declared polio free. Despite this achievement, the country is in a region where there is still circulation of the wild polio virus, adding that WHO has recommended that countries in the West African Sub-Region conduct national polio campaign targeting less than 5 years .This activity would be synchronised with 16 other countries in the Sub-Region in order to guard against the importation of the wild polio virus from those countries where the virus is still circulating.
She said this year's polio campaigns aims to cover 391,425 children aged 0-5 years with two doses of the oral polio vaccine, adding that vaccination teams will be moving from house to house to vaccinate all eligible children from 25th to 28th of March,2011.
She called on parents, guardians, carers to ensure that the children with the specific aged group are vaccinated during the NATIONAL Immunization Days (NIDs).
She expressed gratitude to the WHO, UNICEF, Rotary Club International, NGOs and the private sector for their support.