Rumphi district kicks off its polio campaign in grand style
Malawi believed polio had been eradicated, but 30 years later, the highly infectious viral disease has resurfaced amid another pandemic, COVID-19, which has harmed the country's economy.
Malawi: Malawi believed polio had been eradicated, but 30 years later, the highly infectious viral disease has resurfaced amid another pandemic, COVID-19, which has harmed the country's economy.
Malawi has one confirmed case of polio.
Rumphi District Council launched a polio awareness and vaccination campaign last Wednesday, targeting approximately 40,000 under-five children in the district to prevent the spread of polio.
The campaign runs concurrently with the COVID-19 awareness and vaccination campaign.
The event was held at Ng'onga Trading Centre.
Both polio and COVID-19 vaccines were administered during the event.
Dr Westain Nyirenda, the District Health Officer for Rumphi, spoke at the event and urged all parents with children under the age of five to ensure their children are vaccinated during the door-to-door campaign.
“This is a public health concern. Polio mostly affects children; therefore, all under five children must be vaccinated to prevent them from contracting polio. The major challenge is that children can not decide on their own, but it’s the responsibility of parents to take under five children for vaccination,” said Nyirenda.
Nyirenda emphasised that his office will work hard to ensure that all Rumphi children under the age of five are vaccinated against polio.
He stated that failure to do so will increase the population of people with physical disabilities, which will have a negative impact on development at all levels because families will spend so much time caring for their physically challenged children.
Duncan Butao, the council's chairperson for health, echoed his warning, urging all stakeholders to take the awareness messages seriously.
Mr Ojohn Mpoha, the District Environmental Health Officer for Rumphi, stated that it has been 30 years since the resurgence of polio in Malawi.
During the event, Peter Augustus Muyanga, a polio survivor, testified and encouraged parents to ensure that all children under the age of five are vaccinated against polio.
According to Muyanga, getting all of the necessary vaccines is critical. He claims he has disabilities because his mother missed just one polio vaccine dose, which was enough for him to contract the virus.
“My mother only vaccinated me twice instead of thrice, that’s why I contracted polio. Polio is real, and you’re lucky the vaccine is within your reach. I feel sorry when people ignore the polio vaccine. Look at me, I have a physical disability just because my mother defaulted the polio vaccine,” Muyanga testified.
Muyanga was four years old when he contracted polio. Muyanga now works at Malawi Against Physical Disabilities Office in Rumphi District Health Office as a welder of tricycles and wheelchairs for physically challenged people.
Gilbert Kasambala, Rumphi District Council Chair, took his turn and stated that polio awareness messages should be taken seriously because it will be costly for society to manage physically challenged children.
Poliomyelitis, also known as polio, is a highly contagious and incurable viral disease.
Polio, on the other hand, has a highly effective and efficient oral vaccine.
Poliovirus spreads primarily through contaminated water or food, as well as through contact with an infected person.
Polio requires medical diagnosis because some infected people are asymptomatic. Polio, in its most severe form, causes nerve damage, paralysis, difficulty breathing, and can sometimes result in death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one out of every 200 infections causes irreversible paralysis, and 5-10% of those paralysed die when their breathing muscles become immobilised.
Polio and COVID-19 can also be avoided by following strict hygiene practices such as proper hand washing with soap and water. Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services are critical in poliovirus prevention.
COVID-19 and polio have distinct physiological manifestations, and both are preventable through vaccination.