This blog was originally posted in the Huffington Post on January 2, 2014.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden
There are three places in the world where wild poliovirus has never stopped killing and disabling children: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
As with other health threats, polio doesn’t stay neatly within a country’s borders. In the case of Nigeria, polio has spread from there to 25 polio-free countries in the past 10 years.
The Nigerian government recognizes this as a public health threat that can be tackled. Last year they put a national emergency action plan in place to eradicate polio and activated an emergency operations center for the work.
The Nigerian plan includes improving immunization activities, outreach to underserved populations, special approaches in security-compromised areas, outbreak response, and improved routine immunization and disease tracking.
In December I had the chance to visit Nigeria and observe firsthand the progress they’re making.
What I saw was impressive. Here are a few highlights from the trip:
I traveled to Kwarbai Ward in Zaria, Kaduna State. UNICEF is one of the partners working extensively in this area to promote polio vaccination. While visiting the settlement, we observed a polio vaccination team in action and I loved that I was able to vaccinate 10 kids in just a few minutes. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
This is a health camp set up in Kwarbi Ward, with basic services. During the day of my visit, a doctor volunteering at the clinic attended to patients with medical emergencies including congenital heart disease, new onset epilepsy, and a 3-year-old with severe and potentially fatal pneumonia. All were sent to the nearest hospital. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
Most of the adults visiting the health camp had untreated high blood pressure. Staff members here dispense prescriptions for anti-hypertensive and other medicines. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
We also walked with the teams that go door-to-door providing vaccinations. Houses are marked to show what services have been given. The markings tell the vaccination teams how many children eligible for polio vaccination live within the compound. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
Early on a Saturday morning, we visited the Abubakar Gumi Central Market in Kaduna. This large urban market with more than 12,000 booths is a draw for people from all across the state. They sell everything from tires to bananas to soap. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
Many of the female market vendors bring their young children with them while they work. Shoppers bring their children as well. If vaccination campaign workers cannot find these children at home, they hope to find them here at the market. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
During each vaccination campaign, teams visit the market to give polio vaccine to the children there. Members of the vaccination team walk through the market with megaphones, announcing the availability of vaccines. They can vaccinate children right on the spot if the parent agrees. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
While there, I met this mother with her six-month-old. The grandmother is a hairdresser at the market and told her daughter the polio vaccine would be available this day. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
Mother and daughter rode three hours by motor bike to get to the market. She told me she could have walked to the hospital in her community but made the arduous trip to the market because she had heard so many good things about the vaccination team there. Word travels far and wide about the good work being done by these teams. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
I had a chance to immunize kids, including Sarah, this 6-month-old, while there. The polio campaign aims, over a four-day period, to vaccinate every child under five years old in the country. For this child, we gave the first of three vaccine doses. A single dose of the oral vaccine is two drops. Three doses will provide protective antibodies in most recipients. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
The Nigerian government’s Polio Emergency Operation Centers (EOC) around the country, established with crucial support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are key to the effort to end polio. I visited the National Emergency Operation Center in Abuja. CDC provides technical support, including for staff in the field, as well as help in planning, monitoring, and evaluating their work. Here I’m pictured with Dr. Andrew Etsano, Nigeria EOC Incident Manager (front row, far right) and Dr. Ado Muhammad (front row, third from left), Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. With me from CDC’s Atlanta headquarters were Dr. Tom Kenyon, Director of CDC’s Center for Global Health (front row, second from right)) and Dr. John Vertefeuille, Nigeria Team Lead for CDC’s Polio Response. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC
There is still much work to do, but we are so close to achieving our goal of no more polio for the world. Working together, we can get over the finish line and end polio forever and for every child. Photo credit: Agnes Warner, CDC