Last Saturday, 9th April 2016 I was privileged to speak at a public function held at Embakasi Sub-County, Kayole II in my official capacity as an Immunization Champion for Nairobi County. The Nairobi County was launching a polio vaccination campaign and the guest of honour was CEC health department in the county flagged by the director of health services, chief officer health, and county health promotion officer amongst other guests.
This is one of the speeches I had to give without feeling nervous and pressure to prepare to have an impact on my audience. It was simply talking through my personal experiences as a polio survivor and importance of ensuring that no child is left behind during the polio vaccination campaign exercise which was being launched.
After observing the protocols as is usual for any function graced by bigwigs from government, I went into the details of why all of us should be champions of immunization and in particular; polio vaccination. Addressing parents and children who were also in the audience, I asked how much their shoes costs -all of you know that answer yet mine came in segments.
“My shoes cost Kshs 5,000 and that’s not all, I need a caliper “the walking aid that strengthens my leg to stand in motion after the effects of polio” and that costs Kshs 50,000 and lastly, to be able to stand and move around, I use elbow crutches which costs Kshs 25,000 a pair thus in total i need Kshs 80,000 as basic mobility needs. “As parents, do you want to struggle feeding your children or paying for expensive basic things for one child for him/her to walk?” I posed.
I have had a rough time going through the education system in Kenya to be where I am today and I wouldn`t wish it on someone`s child, many of you will feign busy schedules to be the reason as to why you cannot manage to have your child vaccinated against polio. Let me understand, is one minute an expensive investment in your child to receive two drops of polio vaccine that will protect him/her against polio?” My message was home and dry; I was looking at the faces of the children in the audience when I asked if they wanted to be walking like me or if they wished their friends the same. Since theirs was a big NO, the campaign already gained champions of why every child should be immunized against polio.
It is true educating a child with a disability is expensive in this country; it is equally true that there exists extensive negative attitudes against persons with disabilities in our society and their lives have been made of struggles. If they are not struggling to get into a public transport, they are definitely complaining to a certain civil servant of why they can`t come up the 15-Storey building housing offices meant to serve the public but is inaccessible. Those are the issues we go through in this life and we do not wish the same even to our enemies especially if the cause of a disability is one that can be prevented such as polio by a free vaccine paid for by the government.
Being one of the 47 immunization champion all over the counties, I have taken time to go around a number of health facilities in the county and I can confirm there is a remarkable uptake of the polio vaccine; this is indeed an encouraging thing. There is however small pockets of communities that are posing a challenge to this exercise, I overheard that some of them are called “gated communities” this set of people are turning away our volunteers with some flimsy excuses as one not having a badge or I did not hear any advert on TV to know that this exercise is being conducted!
From my observation in these incidences and other unrelated ones, I must say that it is the “Middle class” that stagnates the development of this beautiful country. Sometimes it is through their inaction when they are required to act, in other instances they just burry their heads into sand hoping that a “Chase Bank moment” won’t affect them etc. It is my hope and persuasion that this attitude changes and does fast for the sake of this country and her future because that is what our children are, the future of this country.
Religious institutions have relaxed their resistance to the polio vaccination campaigns and that is a good thing worth celebrating, but I am sure my colleagues who are running this campaign in rural settings are facing even challenging scenarios from various traditional set-ups that need to be dismantled in the 21st c to allow our societies to progress towards sophistication and enjoy the benefits that accrue as a result of the same.
We will have an opportunity to talk more of the experiences from the field in a later post backed by evidence from my colleagues but today I want to remind you, it is the LAST DAY of the door to door vaccination exercise in ALL the counties. Please make a point of ensuring that your child is vaccinated against polio. In the event that you miss, take him/her to any nearby health facility and he/she will be attended to provided that she/he is below the age of 5 years.
The campaign is not the end of Immunization, there is a routine immunization programme that your child has and this needs to be followed up accordingly at the health facility he/she was born. In case the delivery was at home, you are still required to report to a health facility near you, let`s protect our children. They are the heritage we have for humanity.
Vaccinate to Protect, Help us End Polio Now!