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Japan, UNICEF lauded for fight against polio in Far North

Polio Vaccinator, vaccinating a child at the Cameroon-Chad border (c)Marriane Enow Tabi

The Japanese Government and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, have been lauded for providing funds and technical assistance respectively, to immunise more than seven million children under the age of five against polio in Cameroon’s Far North Region, all in the bid to make Cameroon polio-free.

The word of appreciation came from various traditional heads in the region, health experts, representatives of women association and beneficiaries during a week-long recent vaccination campaign in Kousseri, also a targeted town in Far North Cameroon. The Japanese funds on polio implemented by UNICEF Cameroon, covers thirty districts in the Far North Region, including the Lake Chad Basin.

According official sources, the Japanese grant, was tailored to allow UNICEF procure oral polio vaccine for nearly two million children under the age of five in the region, mobilise social groups, engage local leaders in the fight against polio and provide health experts with much-needed technical assistance.

Speaking on behalf of his citizens, Alhadji Mahamat Mousa, the Sultan of Kousseri, saluted Japan and UNICEF for bringing information about polio right to the homes of the very vulnerable people of the Far North Region. Sultan Mahamat said, before, people had to discover about polio and vaccination only when they visit hospitals. “Now, UNICEF’s strategic use of women associations and social groups, who trek from house to house, has made many people understand the importance of vaccinating their children” he said. Given the enormous challenges impeding access to health care in the region, the Traditional leader, urged UNICEF and Japan to go beyond the project so that not even a single child should be paralysed or worst still die of polio in the area.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ngameni Herve, Medical Officer at the Kousseri Health District, said UNICEF’s intervention under the Japanese grant, has helped the health unit live up to the exigencies of the region. “We no longer experience rupture and insufficiency in vaccines, and even if they are, it doesn’t last for long. Equally, the vaccinators and mobilisation team are well trained to carry out the job”

“We are really thankful for the consistent support of the Japanese Government for polio eradication,” said Dr. Ngameni. “This contribution has saved the lives of many children up North” he added.

For their part, most of the representatives of women associations who spoke to this reporter, described with passion their activities on the field. One of them, Ewaselu, Jegere, a 50 year old, said, her work consists of moving from house to house, advising women to go vaccinate their children of 0-5 years. When this reporter met Jegere in her Arab Base locality in Kousseri, Jegere said she is grateful for the training she received and is excited to pass it on to her community, all in the bid to save children from polio.

It is the same trend with some of the trained polio vaccinators, at the border between Cameroon and Chad. Here, one could find vaccinators, trying to convince mothers to save their children from poliomyelitis.

One of the Polio Vaccinators, Soua Antoine Antoine, the Head of a polio vaccination team at the border. He said sometimes they encounter stiff resistance from thousands of women who cross the border. Their commitment to help the community, he went on, however fires their passion to enlighten the women. “Most women we meet, think we want to poison their children. But we tell them that if the vaccines are poison, we wouldn’t give our own kids. That is how they calm down.

Antoine disclosed that through this method, they can vaccinate about 80 to 90 children a day.

Vaccination against polio has been rated as the ultimate strategy to kick polio out. When the pandemic was declared in neighbouring Nigeria in 2016, Health experts, and other stakeholders declared the necessity to prevent its spread to Cameroon.

The experts hold that, in order to eradicate polio in Cameroon completely, a monitoring system needs to be maintained in all remote areas to continue reaching all of the country’s children.

*Video below; shows UNICEF official, Polio vaccinator trying to convince a mother to vaccinate her child at the Cameroon-Chad border



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