Immunisation: building trust in the community in Nigeria

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An EU-funded programme has boosted immunisation levels for killer diseases such as polio and tetanus in Kebbi State, northern Nigeria, from under 2% to 77% in four years.

"My in-laws had three kids, all boys, who fell sick at the same time. They tried everything they could except the hospital, but to no avail.

"The three children died. I was very sad because they refused to heed our advice to take the children for immunisation."

For 40 year-old mother, Memuna Abubakar, the value of immunising her own children cannot be overestimated.

Before an EU Prime vaccination programme Memuna lost one daughter and her other children were often ill.

She is now one of the many mothers who are taking their babies for free immunisation and health checks in a clinic set up by EU Prime in Kalgo, near the Kebbi State capital.

Memuna says, "Each time I am pregnant I ensure that I attend the antenatal clinic.

"As soon as I deliver my babies I take them to hospital for immunisation to protect them from any childhood diseases.

"Sometimes they fall ill but with proper medical attention they get well in little or no time."

The clinic is one product of a dramatic change in combating vaccine-preventable diseases such as tetanus, polio, tuberculosis and measles.

Among improvements to hospitals and the construction of health centres, the programme also set up a cold chain, a continuous system of refrigeration units to carry vaccines from a central dept to solar-powered fridges in remote areas.

Technicians were also trained to keep the system going long-term.

State cold chain officer, Husaini Sahabi Kashin-Zamar says, "Almost all our health facilities have solar refrigerators to store vaccines in a potent state from a central to local government or health centre.

"Now we do not have a storage problem."

In June 2009, when Kebbi State government took over the funding and administration of primary healthcare, the immunisation levels in the district had risen from 2% to 77%.