What We Learned From Nigeria’s Polio Victory
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The recent confirmation that Nigeria has not registered a single new case of polio for a full year has been hailed as a huge milestone in the decades-long battle against the crippling disease, and cited as an example of public and private development partners truly working together to achieve a common global health goal, with full local ownership.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
Vaccination teams in Nigeria had to overcome myriad obstacles, among them fierce resistance to the vaccine drug among religious groups that claimed it caused infertility, the threat of armed militias like Boko Haram or entire shipments of vaccines spoiling due to lack of refrigeration from the erratic electrical supply in remote rural areas.
The main operational challenge was that too many children were being missed because the vaccination campaigns were not reaching them, recalled Oliver Rosenbauer from the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
“Vaccinators were operating blindly. They would show up at a health clinic and they would not know if there were enough vaccines or enough ice packs,” he told Devex. “Often they lacked detailed maps of the areas they had to cover — if they had maps at all. It was very easy to miss entire areas.”
Rosenbauer compared this situation with previous WHO-led polio vaccination campaigns in India, where vaccination campaigns were planned down to the last child in the most remote village, a multi-stakeholder effort that successfully helped make India polio-free in 2014.
- Health Care