Daily Trust (Abuja)

8 December 2012

Nigeria: Kano in All Out War Against Polio

Kano State has been classified by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as one of the states with the worst results in terms of children missed during vaccination.

The state, on its part, is leaving no stone unturned as it strives to increase its immunization status from 40 to about 80 per cent as a strategy to ensure that no polio case is recorded in the state following its recent 22 cases.

The state Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has already threatened and started to apply strict monitoring strategies on those involved in the immunization, saying this time around it is not business as usual.

Living up to his promise to see that immunisation is taken seriously for the benefits of the children in the state, the governor recently sacked some officials found wanting in their duties.

He went forward to say that local government officials who distinguished themselves in ensuring that every child is immunized would be rewarded while those who performed poorly would be sanctioned.

One of the strengths in the campaign in the state is the inauguration of a task force, headed by the deputy governor, Umar Abdullahi Ganduje, who also goes on field visit to help resolve cases of non- compliances (rejection) as well as immunize children to drum support for the campaign, disabuse people's minds about the vaccine.

The chain of authority whereby the local government chairmen are held responsible for whatever happens in their locality seems to be doing wonders as local chairmen are personally involved to avoid the sanctions or if possible win the reward.

In the November round, Weekly Trust learnt that the role of traditional rulers, religious leaders and district heads has greatly improved the acceptance rate of the vaccine.

Though the first day of the immunization started slow in some areas in the state, bedevilled by high levels of non- compliances, but before the close of day most if not all the cases were resolved by this distinguished group of the Wakili or the Imma, all a combination of the task force.

In Nassarawa local government area, the chairman Comrade Muhammad Bello Butu Butu who attended all the review meetings showed his displeasure when cases of non-compliances were not reported quickly.

According to him, the indigenes of Nassarawa LGA were a difficult but unique set of people who took pleasure in frustrating any positive initiative by government to improve the lives of the people.

He was quick to warn any officer who was not productive and asked the primary health care coordinator, Comrade Nura Haruna Rimingado to relieve anyone of his duties if they were not effective.

In Hotoro North ward, one of the teams was replaced because they were not immunizing children, but filling in the tally sheets to show they had worked, the supervisor who reported the case said they took her on a wild goose chase before they finally confessed.

The team was quickly replaced with a new set of vaccinators and their work place had to be redone by the new team who were instructed to work with the focal person to ensure that the entire houses on the work plan were covered.

Other cases of non compliances were recorded at Dakata, Tudun Murtala Gabas, Gwagwarawa and Gama, but the task force team was deployed there the next day to resolve them.

The Wakilin Nasarawa who attended all the review meetings collected all the names of persons who refused their wards to be vaccinated and called the district heads of the wards to intimate him of the cases and instruct them to see that the cases of non- compliances in their region were resolved.

At Dakata ward, Weekly Trust learnt that few houses with the women inside refused to allow their wards to be immunized. The women said they were forbidden to do so by their spouses, adding that until their husbands give consent, immunizing their children would totally be out of the question.

But such houses were quickly reported to the focal person who immediately told the village head that if he is fails to resolve it, he should go to the district head, but most of the time, when the spouse is called upon he obliges, in cases where the spouses are adamant and refused, they are arrested and detained.

Weekly Trust investigations show that some mothers who would not want their wards inflicted by polio do present them for vaccination but secretly in order not to run foul of their husbands who are against polio immunisation. Such women do not allow the markings on the fingers of the children to be visible.

One of such mothers told Weekly Trust that she used to kerosene and razor blade to remove the ink from the finger of her child to avoid the father seeing it. But at the review meetings some supervisors observed that the markings were not done properly, in some cases the markers of the previous vaccination was reserved by the vaccinators so that they could use them at the next round, to enable them keep the new ones to themselves to beautify their fingers with them.

The supervisor said "because the marker is the old one and has become dry when used it is no longer as visible as it is supposed to be, so after a few days it gradually fades away."

The chairman of the local government Bello Butu Butu who was furious ordered that after each round, all markers must be retrieved from the vaccinators and disposed off, to avoid a repeat of such an act at the next round.

Concerns raised over this recent performances of the vaccinators and markers include how the mop up officials would be able to do their jobs after the exercise seeing that most of the children's evidence of being vaccinated has been cleaned off.

Butu Butu said theses markers were used to do Kunshi, instead of what they were meant for, or in a worst case scenario wiped off their parents.

He lamented that while a lot of funds has been expended to ensure that the immunisation went on smoothly, some teams were hell bent on sabotaging the efforts by the council to see that all children were immunized.

At Minjibir local government area, the primary health care coordinator, Malam Umar Surrayi Rano told Weekly Trust that a lot of sensitizations and advocacy campaigns were carried out in mosques and throughout the villages to enlighten the people on the importance of the vaccination.

According to him, Minjibir has eight polio cases in the state, but one of the victims passed on and now the LGA is battling with seven cases.

At Kawo settlement , Sarbi ward, the chief imam who once opposed vaccination was turbanned sarkin yakin polio to gain his support for the campaigns.

He said households that refused the vaccines were asked to bring one of their children to be part of the team, this makes it easier to vaccinate members of their households.

Umar said the commitment from the government and LG chairman was impressive and encouraging making logistics easier to vaccinate children at areas hard to reach, adding that the pluses has helped to improve the quality of the immunization.

At Gwandu wawa, the village head was on ground to conduct house-to-house immunization alongside the teams to ensure that no care giver refused to provide his ward for immunization.

He said the vaccination has greatly improved, adding that with the inauguration of the task force, parents were beginning to see how serious the scheme is.

According to Umar, a man was detained for refusing to provide his ward for immunization, saying though he would be released, this action would serve to deter others.

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