VACCINATION – One of UNICEF’s objectives is to vaccinate all children between 0 to 5 years old against polio. UNICEF is working alongside local communities and the Congolese government in order to better inform the local population.
Polio in the DRC
Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was certified a polio-free country in November 2015, the virus continues to spread. From March 2017 to today, a dozen cases of polio have been recorded across the country, including eight in the Haut-Lomami Province.
This Province is dealing with a number of groups that are against the idea of vaccination (Philadelphia, Postolo ancienne alliance, Kishila and the Eglise des noirs en Afrique). These groups constitute a major threat to the future of the region’s children and UNICEF is committed to ending the spread of the virus.
How to get the message out to the biggest number of people?
To answer this question, UNICEF conducted a survey on the effectiveness of current communication strategies used in response to the polio outbreak in the Province.
The objective was to analyze existing communication strategies to establish the most suitable methods to better broadcast the message of vaccinating children aged 0 to 5 years. Thanks to this investigation, it was established that the use of local radios, places of worship and community relay stations were very effective in informing parents. For this message to be effective, it is necessary for all participants in the Province to be involved in the prevention and response to polio.
Both the political and administrative leaders must participate in radio programmes to inform and reassure the population of the importance and benefits of vaccination.They must support prevention efforts while also managing cases of refusal. Religious and cultural leaders must also be key participants when it comes to spreading the information and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the communities.
How to overcome the resistance to vaccination?
There are many groups in the Haut-Lomani Province that are against to the idea of vaccinating children: the Kitawala, Postolo, Eglise des noirs en Afrique, Philadelphia, Mpadi, Kishila, Stawar, Liberté, etc.
The involvement of local authorities is also key to helping stop the spread of the virus among these groups. During the month of December 2017, UNICEF held meetings with the Governor and the top authorities of the Haut-Lomami to appeal them to take into account the resistance there is to vaccination in their Province.
These authorities have committed to include the respect of children’s rights as a condition to administrative authorisation and formation of churches that are against vaccination. Field missions will also be organised to further reassure and encourage the population to embrace vaccination.
Vaccinate to save
All participants in the DRC must work together to face the challenges of vaccination. It is important to get the message out to the largest number of people as well negotiate with the groups against vaccination to ensure each child is vaccinated.
The virus poses a grave threat to our children and to the future of our country and vaccination is crucial to allow every child to grow up healthy.
More info about vaccination against polio in DRC:
Translated from French by Atholl Simpson
Amadou Mallé est consultant C4D Polio au bureau UNICEF de Kamina. Frappé par la problématique des groupes réfractaires à la vaccination, il plaide pour l’implication de tous les décideurs pour mettre fin à la polio dans le pays.
Amadou Mallé is a C4D polio consultant at the Kamina UNICEF office.
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