In March of 2022, the Djibouti Ministry of Health, in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, vaccinated around 150,000 children against polio in two rounds of a nationwide programme. The goal is to reach young people in the nation’s poorest and most remote locations.

Harabaley is a Djibouti neighborhood on the outskirts. In the surrounding area, water, sanitation, electricity, and adequate medical care are all lacking. During the polio campaign, young mother Madina Abdallah received the initial polio immunization for her child. Madina whispers while breastfeeding her four-month-old son Issa.

“During the current polio vaccination campaign, I administered my child’s first vaccination. Until these health professionals came to my house and told me about the campaign, I had no clue that children would be given polio drops,” she adds, indicating two social mobilizers who are visiting the neighborhood to see whether any children were missed by the campaign.

Home is without electricity, radio, and television. Madina explains, “Had the health professionals not visited my home, I would have been unaware of the polio immunization programme and my child would have missed the polio drops.”

Lack of access to basic health care services, insufficient water and sanitation, and inadequate nutrition can all contribute to the spread of infectious diseases like polio. Fatima Mahmoud and Madina Sameray’s difficult job is to reach children who might otherwise be denied immunization. They are UNICEF social mobilizers in Djibouti who have worked tirelessly to educate and urge caregivers in socioeconomically deprived communities to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases such as polio.

“For the past eight years, we’ve been working with communities to educate them on the health benefits of vaccination and how two drops of polio can protect a child from a fatal disease like Poliomyelitis,” the social mobilizers explain as they double-check the house marking to ensure that no children were missed.

In locations such as Harabaley, parents frequently lack the financial means to vaccinate their children according to the recommended schedule, according to Fatima and Madina. Campaigns conducted door-to-door can assist in reaching these children. People may erroneously believe they must pay for vaccinations, which discourages their use of the services. “We must teach and educate them about free immunization,” Fatima continues.

Formerly the main cause of paralysis in children around the world, polio is on the verge of eradication. Since 1988, the number of children infected with polio has reduced by 99 percent. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the final boundaries for the illness. In contrast, a type of poliovirus found in regions with insufficient immunization and poor sanitation is spreading throughout Asia and Africa. Polio must be eradicated by vaccinating every child in every home. 

However, there are still thousands of unvaccinated children.” COVID- Numerous children are currently unvaccinated, particularly in remote and rural areas, as a result of the disruption to normal immunization caused by the year 19.” “Until all children are immunized, polio fear will persist,” Madina says.

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