IRC Launches Vaccination Campaign in War-scarred Nimba County, Liberia
Six-month-old Perry is all smiles as his mother leans him back and Thompson Kruah, an IRC community health worker in the town of Ganta, drips two clear drops of vaccine onto the back of his tongue. Perry scrunches his face as the strange cool liquid tickles his throat. Perry is one of more than 5,000 Liberian children under five years of age that the IRC’s health team immunized against polio last week.
Partnering with Liberia’s Ministry of health, the IRC is training health workers in administering vaccinations. They in turn form vaccination teams that are carrying out immunization campaigns in clinics, schools and markets in various underserved areas of the country.
In Nimba County, which is coming back to life after the war, 50 IRC technical specialists are vaccinating children and 150 health workers are out mobilizing the community to register their kids.
Perry’s mother was at home in Ganta when she heard the early morning announcement. IRC health workers, loaded in the back of a pick-up truck were driving through the streets and with bullhorn, urging parents to immunize their children. “Baby Ma, Baby Ma! Please bring your children out for vaccination today!”
Joseph Walker, father of two-week-old Zaccariah, was on his way to work when he ran into a group of parents taking their children to an IRC clinic. He immediately returned home and brought his children to be immunized.
The vaccination teams spend two days in set locations and then form mobile teams, which go out into the communities to maximize coverage and impact.
The IRC is implementing an identical immunization campaign in Montserrado County, the area surrounding the capital city of Monrovia which hosts a number of camps for internally displaced Liberians, a population especially vulnerable to disease.
Although Polio was thought to be nearly eradicated in Africa, 12 countries reported cases in the past year and a half. Liberia was not among them, but IRC health coordinator Dr. Margaret Itto warns that the civil war and resulting damage to the country’s infrastructure impeded the collection of reliable data. She fears that the disease may be looming in many of the less accessible places in the country. Itto says that only 40 percent of the country’s children have been immunized against polio. “Polio is a devastating childhood disease but easily preventable,” she says. “We are extremely excited to be part of the campaign. By attacking polio, we get one step closer to realizing one of ours main goals of helping to reduce child morbidity and mortality in Liberia.”