By Treezer Michelle Atieno
In the fight against a re-emerging threat, the Kenyan government has intensified its efforts to curb the spread of polio, especially in the North Eastern region. This region, grappling with the resurgence of this debilitating disease, has become a focal point for the country’s health ministry.
Public Health and Professional Standards Principal Secretary (PS), Ms. Mary Muriuki, who has been spearheading this campaign, stated during a recent media and stakeholders meeting, “Recently, I reported that we had confirmed six cases and that we were going to conduct an emergency polio vaccination campaign in four counties. Sadly, there are clear indications that transmission of the virus is still active in Garissa County, especially within the refugee camps.”
In response, the Ministry, county governments, and partners swiftly executed Round One of polio campaigns from August 24th to August 28th, 2023. They targeted Kiambu, Kajiado, Garissa, and Nairobi, achieving a remarkable 104.2% coverage. Ms. Muriuki commended parents, religious leaders, the media, partners, and the public for their unwavering support.
Polio, once thought to predominantly affect children under five, now poses a threat to people of all ages in areas where population immunity is compromised. A sobering reminder of the virus’s reach was the confirmation of a case in a 7-year-old child.
The vaccination schedule, starting from birth, plays a crucial role in curbing outbreaks. It involves doses at 6 weeks, 10 weeks, and 14 weeks. In her call to action, Ms. Muriuki stressed, “The ongoing polio outbreaks are squarely attributed to missed vaccination opportunities among children. I therefore urge all parents to ensure that their children receive all the required doses of the vaccines to stop further polio outbreaks.”
Notably, the government is committed to proactive surveillance of polio cases among children under 15, with environmental surveillance to detect cases promptly. The recruitment and training of 100,000 Community Health Promoters (CHPs) will strengthen vigilance at the community level.
To ensure the successful containment of polio, the public’s involvement is crucial. Suspected polio cases should be reported, especially among children under 15 exhibiting sudden paralysis, to the nearest health facility or chief. Hotlines at 719, 0729471414, or 0732353535 are also available for reporting.
Ms. Muriuki emphasizes that the fight against polio is a collective endeavor that the government cannot undertake alone. She calls upon development partners to continue supporting the cause and urges the media to play a crucial role in community sensitization.
She also expressed gratitude to organizations and institutions like the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, USAID, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, CORE Group, Kenya Red Cross, and CDC, among others, for their unwavering support. County governments, local NGOs, faith-based organizations, community leaders, religious leaders, teachers, and the media have all played pivotal roles in ensuring every child receives quality, safe, and effective vaccines.
The battle against polio is a test of Kenya’s collective resolve. It’s a fight to ensure that every child, regardless of their age or location, is protected from the scourge of polio. As Kenya rallies its forces to confront this health crisis, it sends a clear message that no child will be left behind in the pursuit of a polio-free nation. This unified effort is not just about vaccination; it’s a testament to the strength of a nation when it comes together for a common cause.