Polio portraits: voices from the frontline of eradication

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24 October marks World Polio Day, when the global community celebrates the immense progress and considers the work ahead to ensure no child suffers from polio again.

Gavi's Emily Loud shares the voices of four people whose lives have been affected by polio, and who are now working to help eradicate this devastating disease.

Marie-Josée & Evariste, polio survivors and advocates, DRC

Photo: Gavi/Phil Moore.

Both Evariste and Marie-Josée contracted polio as young children: Evariste when he was only three years old, his wife at the age of eight. He needs a bicycle chair to move around while Marie-Josée needs crutches to walk.

“People said my uncle had cast a spell,” says Marie-Josée. “They said it was witchcraft. They said he’d done it so I wouldn’t marry. It was a terrible time.”

Now they use their experiences to help keep polio out of their country. “We try to explain the importance of vaccination and the problems polio can cause. And we are pretty much living witnesses. We testify to raise awareness of the masses,” says Evariste. “If a vaccine had existed when we were young we would not have been like this.”

Malalai, health worker, Afghanistan

Photo: WHO.

“My job is often not easy but what keeps me going is the goal of ensuring that children are saved from paralysis through vaccination. Every child deserves to be healthy,” says Malalai.

“During one campaign I talked to a family who refused to vaccinate their children. I took the issue to our polio team review meeting, and the next day I went with the campaign coordinator and doctors to visit the family again. We talked with them for hours, explaining the benefits of vaccination and the dangers of not immunising children, and eventually they agreed to vaccinate,” says Malalai.

“If the man in the family refuses to vaccinate their children, I try to contact the mother to convince her,” Malalai says. “Sometimes I face problems but I try my best to overcome them through different ways. I am happy that I can work as part of the effort to stop polio and help Afghan children have a better future.”

Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq, Prime Minister’s Focal Point on polio eradication, Pakistan

Photo: Gavi/ Isaac Griberg.

“The last demographic health survey in the country showed a lot of disparity in vaccination coverage between provinces, with Punjab doing much better than other provinces like Balochistan,” says Senator Farooq.

“Data that we collect over time with our door-to-door polio immunisation campaigns, as well as environmental samples, show that polio is generally rampant among families or children that have had zero doses of routine immunisation.

“To sustain our efforts in eradicating polio and interrupting transmission, it is imperative that we improve routine immunisation coverage in the country.”

Visit the Vaccineswork website to read the original article 


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