A unique opportunity – Donncha O’Callaghan

For every view of Donncha’s Field Diary from Nigeria, Fyffes will donate 1 life-saving vaccination to prevent the spread of polio

At the end of January this year I visited Kano State in Nigeria to see UNICEF’s polio vaccination programme in action. Fyffes, in partnership with UNICEF Ireland, has committed to donating at least one million polio vaccines to help them achieve the goal of eradicating polio by 2018.

Incredible progress has been made – from 350,000 cases of polio 25 years ago to only 403 cases in 2013 but we need one final push to eradicate this preventable disease for good.  Polio remains endemic in just three countries, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

One of our first ports of call when we landed in Kano was to visit a local health care centre to view the vaccination programme in action. Mothers and their children had travelled up to 60km to ensure their children got vaccinated. I actually got to vaccinate a number of children myself. It is just so simple; just a few drops of the oral polio vaccine on the child’s tongue and that’s it.  A child needs to get this vaccine a couple of times when they are very young and that will protect them from contracting this horrific disease. It really struck me how easily preventable this disease is.

At the same health care clinic I met polio survivor Aruna Abrahi (47). He was talking to a four year old Mohammed and his mother Shamsia about why Mohammed should be vaccinated.  I can’t think of anything more impactful that a polio victim explaining the importance of the prevention.

UNICEF Ireland Ambassador Donncha O'Callaghan meets polio survivor Aruna Abrahi (47) in  Kano State in Nigeria where he visited to see UNICEFs polio vaccination programme in action

 

One of the babies I helped vaccinate was 20 month old Nazir. Nazir’s mother had brought her to the clinic to be vaccinated.  While the doctors were examining Nazir they noticed that she was also suffering from malnutrition. Nazir was given therapeutic food and her mother received nutrition advice. It struck me that children born in these regions are already facing an uphill battle.

UNICEF Ambassador Donncha O'Callghan vaccinates 20 month old baby Nazir against polio in Kano State in Nigeria where he visited to see UNICEFs polio vaccination programme in action

This trip has had a profound effect on me; witnessing the devastating effects of polio countered with how easily it can be prevented. It should compel us all to do what we can to support UNICEF in their goal to eradicate polio world-wide by 2018 so that no child needs ever suffer again at the hands of polio. Campaigns like Fyffe’s April “1 bag = 1 vaccination” campaign is just one way in which you can support this goal.

 

 

Photos: UNICEF/2014/Condron