Polio Vaccination Campaign a Resounding Success


By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK True to the saying that silent gratitude is not much use to anyone, yesterday the Ministry of Health and Social Services handed over 45 certificates and 11 plaques to different institutions and individuals for their support during the recently concluded national polio campaigns. Minister Richard Kamwi acknowledged the support received from more than 200 contributors who in the past four months have helped the ministry run its three-phased polio campaigns following the outbreak declared towards the end of May 2006. The support came in the form of financial resources, transport and drivers, volunteers (human resources) and logistics. Towards the end of May this year, the first case of wild poliovirus was recorded in the country and the figure of confirmed cases rose to 20 by July 26. These confirmed cases were part of the 300 cases of acute flaccid paralysis recorded. The outbreak claimed at least 32 lives. Kamwi described the outbreak as something that took the entire ministry by surprise and, due to the seriousness of the outbreak and the infectious nature of the disease, the ministry had to respond promptly by vaccinating the population of approximately two million. “It is important to note that we were able to implement the first campaign within two weeks of the outbreak in line with the WHO recommendation. Equally important was the team work with our development partners,” he acknowledged. According to the minister, apart from other local contributors including the media, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) did a sterling job in support of these campaigns giving technical advice, assistance and material support. The People’s Republic of China and South Africa also assisted with the campaigns. A total amount of N$20 million was spent during the three rounds of polio vaccinations, while 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 244 vehicles were utilized. The number of personnel including volunteers was 7ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 for round one, 7ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 725 for round two and 5ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 915 for round three. “In response to the outbreak, Cabinet committed a budget of N$25 million from the national contingency fund to cover for vaccines, transport, training and clinical supplies,” he said. The outcome of the vaccination campaign’s three rounds was a resounding success, with 90-100% coverage. In appreciation, Kamwi stated: “Let me thank each and every citizen and visitor to Namibia for your active participation in the campaign. Thank you for showing interest!” UNICEF Country Representative, Khin Sandi-Lwin, disclosed at the same gathering that the official verdict on whether Namibia can already be declared polio-free, remains unknown. The country will have to wait until six months have elapsed from the time the last case was reported. Sandi-Lwin congratulated the ministry and all other partners for a job well done, adding that no other country in history has recorded such a resounding success in tackling the polio outbreak in such a short period. The response from the masses, she added, showed how committed and supportive Namibians are as a nation. “Efforts will continue with the sister agency UNICEF to work together until Namibia is declared polio-free, hopefully by next year,” she assured. In the same way, WHO representative, Custodia Mandlhate, stated that her organization would continue supporting Namibia especially in the area of technical support. She invited Namibians to support WHO’s commitment to improve the surveillance activities, increase routine immunization coverage, improve dialogue with neighbouring countries, commitment to be prepared to respond to any importation, and commitment to keep the promise and kick polio out of Namibia.