Just over a year old, little Alidou Abdoulaye crossed the Chadian border with his mother, as they fled the violent conflict in C.A.R. earlier this year.
When they first took refuge in the Doyaba returnee site, located approximately 800 Km southeast of the capital, Ms. Abdoulaye recalls that her son’s health was in peril.
“In our situation, the food security problem is not yet completely solved, but we need to stay healthy and hope for a better tomorrow. Since our arrival two months ago, my two children were sick. Thanks to supplements that were given at the health center today, we can say Al Hamdu Lilah,” says Ms. Abdoulaye who, like the thousands of Chadian returnees who have crossed the border with their families, call the Doyaba site their new home for now.
Though food security and nutrition are primary sources of concern for mothers like Ms. Abdoulaye, she understands that other health measures such as vaccination, vitamin A supplementation and deworming treatment are equally important for her child.
In April, and as Chadian health authorities launched this year’s second national polio vaccination campaign, thousands of children returnees in camps such as the Doyaba camp were vaccinated against polio, and received vitamin A supplementation and deworming treatment.
These measures which have recently been added again to polio campaigns in Chad thanks to UNICEF support, have been proven to reduce child mortality linked to measles infection and diarrhea by 50% and 40% respectively, and to reduce overall infant mortality by 25%.
There is an estimated 17,000 returnees including at least 4,500 children (and counting) at the Doyaba site alone. During the April campaign, four vaccination teams (trained with the support of UNICEF and WHO) were deployed to the camp. This included 12 vaccinators, three public announcers and nine community relays.
Two days prior to the campaign, community relays engaged in direct information-sharing and dialogue on vaccination with parents at the camp. During this preparatory work, more than 3,100 households were visited.
More than 4,350 children aged 15 and below were vaccinated against polio at camp Doyaba during the national campaign in April. In addition, more than 1,800 children received vitamin A treatment and Deworming treatment, which is aimed at a younger age group.
Ensuring good vaccination coverage as part of the integrated health services in camps such as camp Doyaba is critical. Inadequate sanitary conditions often plague such environments, and increase child morbidity and mortality.
In addition, and as the Chadian government is currently on high alert for wild poliovirus re-importation, its borders with Cameroon and C.A.R. remain major sources of concern.
Cameroon, despite having recorded no new polio cases for three years until October 2013, is now placed at “high risk” by WHO of spreading the poliovirus in the region after several new cases were detected.
It is also stipulated that the poliovirus is also in circulation in C.A.R, although hard evidence is not available due the conflict and the lack of surveillance data.