by Martina Palazzo
Abba Tchouloum and Madou Mboulumi are two young boys from the Chad Lake province who think polio is an affair to be closed with no turning point back towards the pre-2012 situation. Since then, in fact, Chad has been declared a “polio free” country, but last May new cases of poliomyelitis virus from neighbouring Cameroon — Mada district — is again threatening children from 5 Chadian cross-border provinces. Nomads can easily pass the border with their houses and animals, and unconsciously with viruses.
UNICEF and WHO, together with the local communities, have decided to take the field and get ahead of it. “Two” has been the magic number: two weeks for planning an emergency vaccination campaign in two rounds for administering the famous “two drops”. The mission? Vaccinating about 192 thousand children and immunizing them from a virus which could have an irreversible impact on their socio-physical development. No child aged 0–59 months and living in that area would be left behind. Every household, refugees camp, site for internal displaced people (IDPs), fishermen’s village, or market would be visited, and each child would get vaccinated. Even if the raining season and the security problems are attempting the practicability of the five provinces.
In the health district of Bagasola, which includes 606 villages out of which 225 are located on the islands, Abba and Madou have participated in the first round of the campaign in mid-July. They are not doctors, neither health care givers, but simple citizens who care for the future of the next generation. With a pair of boots and plenty of motivation, they managed to reach six villages difficult to access and vaccinated the little ones. Like Abba and Madou, other people, including the village chiefs, have joined the task force of volunteers by giving their support to the official vaccination teams on site.
“If it’s not on our shoulders, who else should care about our children?” said one of the volunteers.
The Chief Doctor of Bagasola District has welcomed the initiative and encouraged volunteers to keep going with their commitment.
The second round of the campaign is approaching, and the community engagement is a key ingredient for its success. Because if polio is behind the door, we will never open it.
After a polio outbreak in the north of Cameroon, in the Chad-bordering district of Mara, a synchronized campaign of vaccination has been planned in both countries. The campaign foresees two rounds of vaccination — mid-July and beginning of August- targeting 191. 755 children aged 0–59 months, included those living on the Lake Chad islands and those belonging to the nomadic communities. Thanks to the financial support of Rotary, UNICEF is operating in the polio response and leading different activities, such as the recruitment, training and supervision of more than 7000 social mobilizers, as well as providing 228 000 doses of vaccine in 69 different zones.