It’s not yet time to Celebrate Victory over Polio in Ghana – Millennium Promise

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A technical advisor to the One Million Community Health Workers Campaign (1mCHW) of Millennium Promise, John Elliasu, has urged Ghanaians to be cautious in celebrating victory over polio infections because the victory is not entirely complete yet.

Ghana has not had any reported polio case in the last ten years and stakeholders are excited over the achievement promising to do more to ensure that the 99.9% success achieved so far in eradicating polio is sustained and made better. A march and Community durbar was held last Saturday at Osu ahead of the celebration of this year’s World Polio Day on October 28. It was organized by the Ghana National PolioPlus Committee (GNPPC) of Rotary International, Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Youth Employment Agency (YEA) and the 1mCHW of Millennium Promise.

Speaking at the function, Mr Eliasu said “although Ghana is already certified as Polio-Free, it still remains a risk. In fact, until poliovirus transmission is interrupted from the three remaining Polio remains endemic countries – Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan – all countries remain at risk of importation of polio,” he stated.

He said “with the eradication of polio now in sight, we need to ensure that we leave no stone unturned and leave no one behind. This calls for us to deploy our best assets and capabilities to sustain the necessary response”. He named the “assets and capabilities” to include ICT based solutions for rapid and targeted response and follow-up; frontline health workers for comprehensive primary health care services; and community efforts for sustaining local response.

The worldwide fight against polio started decades ago with Rotary International (RI) at the forefront. This was at a time Polio was endemic in 125 countries on five continents, paralyzing about 350,000 children every year. Now, polio is endemic in only 3 countries and paralyzing less than 11 children a yewar as at September 2017.

The chairperson of the Ghana National PolioPlus Committee, Theresa Osei Tutu, said Rotary’s four pronged approach to the fight is what has contributed to agenda coming this far. This include Advocacy, Fundraising, Volunteer Mobilization and Awareness –raising and Education.

“In Ghana, The GNPPC of RI undertook a survey on social mobilization for polio eradication using participatory Community Radio in partnership with the Ghana Community Radio Network (GCRN),” she stated. Among the objective was to generate a more textured understanding of the social mobilization challenges to polio eradication that are posed by hard-to-reach areas in Ghana; and develop a participatory communication strategy to address it.

“The focal teams of all three Community Radio stations were unanimous in their assessment that there is actually little education on the polio virus and its prevention through immunization. It is conflated with pregnancy because all that is emphasized is the need for mothers to bring their babies periodically for vaccinations. What exactly the vaccinations are for and why is not explained,” she revealed, adding that “this survey suggests that the “polo-free” status of Ghana and in particular its hard-to-reach areas may be hanging on a fine thread”.

While sounding optimistic that the war on polio would be warn completely, Osei Tutu emphasized that “the polio threat has shrunk to such a small size, this year only 11 people…that we can catch, count, and investigate each of the remaining cases. But these are not just Numbers. These are People. Almost there isn’t good enough with a disease so terrifying”.

The Director General of Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, whose speech was read on his behalf by Dr. David Opare, a public health specialist, commended the organizers of the event for their contributions towards improving maternal and child health in Ghana and the sub-region.

“We wish to thank you sincerely, the Rotary International (especially Ghana Polio-plus committee), all polio-plus partners and Millennium Promise for the efforts that have brought us this far in respect of improving the health of the people and making this happen,” he stated.

“More than 16 million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed by the dreadful disease poliomyelitis. Additionally, an estimated 1.5 million childhood deaths have been prevented through the systematic administration of vitamin A during polio immunization activities. The World stands on brink of a historic global public health success. We cannot afford to backslide”.

He said despite the progress made so far in Ghana, much still remains to be done.

“We must all work harder to ensure that successive cohorts of children born receive all the vaccines that they need in a timely manner. There are still many unimmunized children especially in the urban, peri-urban and other geographic inaccessible communities. These children, if not reached, are prone to infection and could be sources of re-emergence of eliminated and diseases nearly eradicated.”

There were free immunization, HIV testing, Body Mass Index (BMI) assessment, blood pressure measurement, health education and counselling for the hosting community during the event.

Source: Jeorge Wilson Kingson ||

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