A recent resurgence of polio virus was detected in one of the border regions; Rukwa region in Tanzania, following recorded cases of circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (cVDPV) in some neighboring countries.
The World Health organization supported the Government of Tanzania to swiftly launch an intensive polio vaccination campaign in 6 border regions including, Kigoma, Kagera, Katavi, Mbeya, Rukwa and Songwe, to break the chain of spread within the shortest possible time and ensure every child is protected.
Health workers stood at the forefront of the response, crossing lakes, driving through valleys, climbing bridges to reach every child everywhere with vaccines.
In the Kasanga town in Rukwa Region, a middle-aged town crier, Musah Alino is screaming through the town with a stick and a little container, hitting it passionately and calling on parents and families to come out and vaccinate “Oh people, oh people, the health workers are here, bring your children for polio vaccination”.
28-year-old Mgaza Augustino is also walking briskly to catch the next boat to the Samazi Village in the Rukwa Region, located across the Lake Tanganyika to vaccinate children.
“We have walked over 10kilometeres per day. We have crossed the lakes, went down the valley and hills, gone to farms just to reach every child with polio vaccines, Mgaza Augustino narrated. “As much as this is tiresome, I don’t see this as an obstacle at all because we are aware of the sincere purpose of this work and the importance of the lives of our children.”
Polio has no cure and can only be curbed through vaccination. However, In the heat of an outbreak, knowing how to respond is key to building resilience.
The Government of Tanzania with support from WHO and partners mobilized and deployed over 5000 volunteer health workers into the regions to reach a target of 3 million children in 37 districts of the 6 regions. Thanks to the dedicated efforts and commitment from all, especially the volunteer health workers, the campaign exceeded its target, reaching over 4million children with a zero recorded case.
“The aim was to reach as many children as possible. Thanks to support from WHO and partners, we have been able to reach people in hard-to-reach communities. There were places where some of the targeted children lived that were difficult for cars and motorcycles to plunge,” stated Kamota Richard, Sub District Vaccination Supervisor in Rukwa Region.
Aside from the campaign, WHO expanded its support in polio eradication by extending environmental surveillance for polio, intensive community sensitization using multimedia outlet and door to door mechanism and conducted trainings for health workers to discharge their duties efficiently.
“The most important thing was to break the chain in transmission. We needed to go everywhere, to vaccinate every child”, says Dr William Mwengee, Surveillance Officer at WHO. “We want to make sure every eligible child is not left out hence we supported the Government to make sure nowhere is left untouched”.
More health workers plugged through several areas, churches, markets, and farms, to vaccinate children who may not be at home during the door-to-door visits. We spot one of the health workers, Neema Thomas Suedy, heading to a church on a hot blazing Sunday.
“In this vaccination, I gave it my all because I want polio to be a thing of the past. I believe, all children must be vaccinated because they may get infected or perhaps if they already have it, they will infect others and their loss will be a great one to the community”.
Mashirika ya UN yanayojihusisha katika Huu Mpango kazi