Wednesday, November 22, 2006

National Immunization Day in Niger

Posted by Rotarian Ann Lee

Our team of 15 arrived safe and sound in Niamey on Tuesday. We were met at the airport by Gaston Kaba, the PolioPlus Director of Niger and several Rotarians and Rotaractors. A brief drive and we were at the hotel. After a hot shower, a good meal and friendly talk we all retreated to our rooms to catch up on the time change and 15 hour journey. This morning, Wednesday, the team met with Dr. Alassoum Zeidou, the Head of Niamey Urban Community to determine where our teams would be most useful in the immunization days ahead. The team leaders had previously divided the 15 members into teams of two (one team of three). With that list we determined our distribution throughout Niamey. We will cover the three Medical Districts in Niamey spreading inside and outside the city boundaries as well as past the Kennedy Bridge along the border between Niger and Nigeria.

After lunch, team leaders, Dave Groner and Ann Lee Hussey traveled with Gaston Kaba to visit the chairwomen of the three Districts. The team leaders for Districts 1 & 2, Tanya Wolff-Molson and Keith Koke accompanied us along with three Rotaractors. Each Rotaractor has been assigned to help us on our days of immunizing. We observed the chairwomen educating and training the local health workers. Of most interest was a skit they performed as a tool to teach the workers how to deal with resistant families. They demonstrated how having volunteers from North America with their white skin, put resistant fathers at ease with administering the vaccine to their children. It was an education for us all. The Niamey people are joyful and friendly and the social interaction we shared with the health workers was a special experience. The National Immunization Days are nationwide in Niger for the next four days, Thursday thru Sunday. The team will immunize in the urban areas of their assigned District for the first three days and the fourth day will be spent in the more rural regions of their District.

In addition to the polio drops, team members and health workers will also be giving Vitamin A to the children to give a boost to the children's immune systems and work to fight avoidable blindness. The biggest challenge in Niger exists along the Nigerian border where a mass transit of Nigerians from Nigeria and Nigeriens from Niger occurs daily. Niger's aim is to maintain the pressure on Nigeria to continually improve upon their immunization program. Niger was removed from the list of endemic countries in 2005. It has experienced 11 paralytic polio cases so far in 2006, all importation cases from the polio virus circulating in Nigeria. We are grateful on the eve of our Thanksgiving Day to also be on the eve of immunization days in Niger. As we expressed to the health-care workers - "together we can do it." Thanks to all the Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Foundation contributing to make immunization days for polio a reality.

"Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality." Jonas Salk


At 8:17 AM, Blogger Sharon Beckwith said...

Ann- Couldn't be prouder to include you and your team in my list of people to be truly thankful for in this world we live in. Best wishes to each and every team member as you continue such important work


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