My mother was around 11 years old when she got sick with what they thought was the flu or some similar illness. During the course of the illness, she got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and fell to the floor. She would never walk again without the aid of a crutch and a brace. She was separated from her family for months while she was treated for polio during the epidemic that swept the country. Today, she has some signs of post-polio syndrome. Daily chores are made more difficult; walking is not easy. She’s an amazing woman and has taken on this disability with pride and dignity. As I think about my own child, I would be devestated to watch her go through the same experience. I would not wish such a disease on any child, in any country, especially when we have the medical knowledge to take action.
Save the Children http://www.savethechildren.org is an organization dedicated to bettering the lives of children around the globe. This is one of their actions.
South Sudan: The Long Trek to Eradicate Polio
Volunteers across South Sudan are battling to eradicate polio among children under five in South Sudan, through a five-day “house to house” campaign. The campaign is organized by the South Sudan health ministry, and Save the Children is supporting it by lending vehicles and in Mvolo county. The effort is to catch the children who have not been vaccinated at a health centre or through an outreach program.
Delivering polio vaccinations
To ensure that children get the two drops each of the polio vaccine, vaccinators must walk for long distances, where they find families eagerly waiting for them. Villages are far apart and roads are very poor, so vaccinators have to trek long distances between each village on foot or by bicycle. In Mvolo, Western Equatoria state, the mobile immunization team shared their experience with me, of conducting house-to-house immunization in the county.
Immunization and access
“It is difficult for us to achieve full immunization here in Mvolo County, because there is a big population that stays deep in the rural areas. They’re not easily accessible. In Lessi Payam, five of the villages are not reachable and this is a big challenge for us,” said County Health Officer William Dalli.
“I have no bicycle to move around when I am carrying out the immunization, so I move on foot. It is very far because the families live far apart and I have to go to each family,” Asumpta Achol shares.
Those who have bicycles face challenges too: “I use my own bicycle, but when it breaks down, it becomes difficult for me to move. Even with the bicycle I get tired when I ride for the whole day,” says Manase Dogbanda.
Final push to eliminate crippling disease
Save the Children conducts vaccination against polio, measles and tetanus on a regular basis both at health facilities and in outreach programs. We also provide support to the annual nationwide immunization campaign, alongside World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. South Sudan is one of few remaining countries that still has a serious polio problem and the disease has crippled many children.