The Ministry of Health and Sanitation, in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and other development partners has vaccinated over one million children under the age of five in Sierra Leone in the third round of the polio campaign to halt the spread of polio in the country. The polio vaccination campaign began last Friday and ends today. The campaign covers all the 13 Districts in the country.
Sierra Leone had been polio-free until July 2009, and since then 13 new cases of polio have been confirmed in six districts of Sierra Leone Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba, Bo, Kenema and Western Area.
This year the polio vaccination campaigns have benefited from Chiefdom level micro planning to map out required resources at community level, identify problems of reaching children and address them right where they occurred. However, many children were still left out either because they were not at home when the vaccinators visited or their parents and care givers were not aware of the campaign. Those areas have been identified and this round will witness intensive social mobilization activities at the chiefdom level to ensure all caregivers and communities are well informed, and children receive the polio vaccine.
“We have to redouble our efforts for this third round of polio vaccination. The first two rounds were successful, but we still haven’t reached the necessary 100 per cent coverage” to reach the last child, and to be sufficiently protected from “die hand and die foot” a child needs more doses of polio vaccine, said Mohamed Koroma, Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation. “Healthy children mean a healthy future for the country, so let us make sure this time we reach every single child”.
WHO Representative, Dr. Wondimagegnehu Alemu said that despite two preventive and three reactive rounds of immunization days in 2009 and two in March 2010 there is evidence that the wild polio virus continues to circulate in the country and the West Coast of Africa. “Another case of polio has been reported this year from Port Loko district. For this third round of vaccination we need the dedication and commitment of everybody involved to make sure all children get the necessary protection”, he said.
“Serious concern has been raised at international level. The continuing outbreak in West African countries may jeopardize the efforts of other countries to stop the transmission of the virus”, said Mahimbo Mdoe, UNICEF Representative in Sierra Leone. “We therefore have to make sure the rounds in May of the polio immunization campaign reaches every child in the country, so that the transmission of the virus can be stopped”, he concluded.
Development partners compliment the government’s efforts by mobilizing funds for the procurement of vaccines, facilitation of trainings, communications, supplies, logistics and technical support.