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Thursday, 22 September 2011

POLIO: A PAINFUL REALITY



I have just read now that Polio has been found in China for the 1st time since 1999 with the WHO saying that it spread from Pakistan and it just takes my mind back to my guest today on “Talk Nigeria’ Ihuoma Kelechi. A young woman who has battled to live with the knock out from Polio at the age of 3. My time with Ihuoma this morning opened my eyes to the hardship that this country Nigeria has inflicted and afflicted her citizens with because I don’t know how you explain  the fact that a young woman who has struggled to study and pass through school, falling and tripping along the way because of her condition, cannot get a job because someone thinks she is physically unable to perform.

She shared her story with us this morning and acknowledged the fact that she has a wonderful family who really cares about her! “I fell to Polio as age 3” she says and “I have had to live with the hard fact that I will never be physically fit like my peers” but “ I am never deterred and that’s why I wont “fall” again because I do have a destination in mind”…these words spelt courage boldly in my face and took my mind back to a 2 year old child that was reportedly hit by Polio in March this year. It is such an irony that this little child may end up telling the same story that Kelechi narrated this morning with regret written all over his face in 2043! Where am I going you may ask? Do we have to wait and watch isolated cases like this before something is done to preserve life?

 Last year, WHO discovered that Nigeria had made significant progress towards the final eradication of the polio virus. WHO director, Dr Margaret Chan made the disclosure at the 60th Session of the Regional Committee for Africa in Malabo, only for Nigerians to receive a rude shock when the country’s name popped up in WHO’s report as one of the four countries yet to be free from polio. Nigeria was lumped alongside India, Pakistan and Afghanistan were also listed among the shameful four and their initials formed what you and I know as PAIN…something that these Polio sufferers face having to move around.  The world health monitoring body therefore tasked the identified countries to hasten to achieve 100 percent eradication of poliomyelitis by the year 2012. The target, just 3 months away leaves so much to the imagination and I asked myself how achievable that can be if it has proven difficult all these years!

A proactive nation knows what to do when there is fire on the mountain just as I like to describe polio and what it does to people, China where a new case has been discovered, in Xinjiang province; they have launched a vaccination campaign in the region to forestall further spread but here in Nigeria, one case out of many just means that its not time yet to wade in until many more children are struck by “king Polio” then the government begins to chase shadows!

Ihuoma Kelechi is just one out of many who was lucky enough to have an avenue to voice her frustrations and concern. She volunteers as a teacher in one of the schools in Lagos and guess what she earns? N10, 000.00 having to commute from Ojota to Ikeja where her school is, in that terrible condition. Kelechi is a university graduate but can’t get a job because someone thinks she cannot walk around and I think that crazy and unheard of! I just think Government needs to understand that Polio eradication remains an urgent priority for it. For the common man, it is pertinent to note that maintaining proper and quality hygiene will help reduce the spread of communicable diseases like Polio. Mothers should also ensure that children get the complete dose of all the immunization they need as children and for me I just think  organizations should also try and leave some position for persons with disability to give them a sense of belonging.

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