Schoolchildren in Kenya take the fight against polio into their communities

As Kenya steps up immunization campaigns after a polio outbreak, students help spread the message. Download this video

By Pieter Desloovere

NAIROBI, Kenya, 24 December 2013 – In a nationwide campaign, more than 8 million children in Kenya were vaccinated against polio in November. For this, some of them have their fellow students to thank.

Since May 2013, Kenya has reported 14 polio cases. To contain the outbreak, several immunization campaigns have been conducted across the country. As part of the outreach effort and to help ensure that every child is vaccinated, schoolchildren and teachers have been enlisted to support messaging at the local level, because they come from the area, interact freely in households, and can help identify missed children.

“Our school is one of the schools that was chosen to do the campaign against polio, and actually we sensitize the children on the importance of polio,” says Irene Mosi, head teacher at Ayany Primary School in the Kibera district of Nairobi.

“The teacher asked me to get a form and to get 10 children,” says Kelvin Makau, a student at Uhuru Gardens Primary School in Nairobi. “She told me that I must return the form when I finish with the 10 children, and they must be under five years. All the 10 children are vaccinated.”

A total of 1,900 students from 14 schools in Nairobi were engaged in the exercise. With great enthusiasm and dedication, they reached out to 19,000 children under age 5 in their neighbourhoods.

“My daughter learned about polio in school and then came to teach me about the disease,” says Mariam Ismail about her daughter Yasmin. “She taught me that all young children must be vaccinated to avoid disability or death. I would like to tell other parents out there that they should listen to the doctors and take their children for polio vaccination.”

To further contain the polio outbreak, another nationwide polio vaccination campaign was planned from 14 to 18 December, targeting more than 8 million children under age of 5.