Rotary International, Ghana, together with its partners, One Million Community Health Workers (1CHWs) Campaign of Millennium Promise Alliance (MPA), Saturday, stepped up efforts at eradicating polio from the West African country.
Numbering about 500, personnel from these institutions walked through some principal streets in the country to raise awareness about polio and the need for mothers with children under five (5) years to immunize their wards against it.
The walk dubbed ‘End Polio Now: Make a History Today’ and led by the Ghana National PolioPlus Committee (GNPPC) saw the campaigners walk through the Longor Street through to the Oxford Street, and ended at the Mandela Park at Osu in Accra where a durbar was held to educate the community against polio.
As part of raising the awareness, over 20 Community Health Workers (CHWs) from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Youth Employment Agency (YEA) were also deplored for home visitation where they engaged the community in health promotion and education on environmental sanitation, immunization, family planning, ante-natal care, nutrition among others.
The CHWs also actively searched for disease conditions such as malnutrition, malaria and diarrhoea, and with the aid of smart phones, refer them to nearby health facilities for treatment. They also traced defaulters and provided adherence support to people on treatment.
Similar exercises were held in all the ten regional capitals in the country.
Chairperson of the Ghana National PolioPlus Committee, Ms. Theresa Osei Tutu, addressing the durbar said since Rotary first over-met its funding pledge for polio eradication in 1985; it has consistently fuelled efforts with resources, advocacy and genuine hard work on the ground.
Rotary’s advocacy efforts with both endemic and donor country governments have maintained the dream of a polio-free world over the past 30 years, and brought polio to the brink of eradication, she added.
According to Ms. Osei Tutu, the campaign to eradicate polio from the world has achieved 99.9% success, further urging the world to join hands to fight against the remaining 0.1%.
“So long as one child is at risk, everyone is at risk. There are still pockets of places even in Ghana where there is low coverage. No child anywhere in the world will have to suffer from a disease which has no cure, but is completely preventable,” she noted.
Rotary has so far spent US$2.2billion on polio eradication efforts, including US$985million in matching funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Its contribution towards the polio eradication initiative since 1988 accounts for nearly 11% of all contributions through December 2016 and approximately 42% of private sector giving.
John Eliasu, Technical Advisor of Millennium Promise Alliance who spoke on behalf of the Country Director of the organization, Chief Nat Ebo Nsarko, on his part said his although Ghana is already certified as polio-free country, it still remains at risk.
According to him, until polio virus transmission is interrupted from the three remaining endemic countries – Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio.
He urged all contributors in the fight against polio to remain resolute and work hard to ensure that “we leave no stone unturned and leave no one behind.”
Committed to ensuring a polio-free society, Mr. Eliasu said MPA will deplore all its best assets and capabilities to sustain the necessary response in the areas of: ICT-based solutions, including its famously acclaimed Community-based electronic Tracker (CeTracker) application to support the collection and use of transactional data at the household and community levels; Frontline health workers for comprehensive primary health care services; and Community efforts for sustaining local response.
“On the World Polio Day, we shall be using the application to accelerate data collection and collation, and ensure that no one is left out of routine immunizations. This will reduce the common errors and challenges associated with paper-based systems. With such electronic systems, health workers are able to target immunization and other health services to the clients who miss out on routine services. It really can be a game-changer in revolutionizing immunization data collection and analysis by creating a culture of data-informed decision making within the health sector,” he noted.
Mr. David Opare, who delivered the keynote address on behalf of the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Anthony Nsiah Asare, commenting on the event acknowledged the tremendous gains made by Ghana and the entire global community towards the global eradication of poliomyelitis which started in 1988.
He said more than 16million people are walking today who otherwise would have been paralyzed by the dreadful disease poliomyelitis with an estimated 1.5 million childhood death prevented through the systemic administration of vitamin A during polio immunization activities.
“The world stands on the brink of a historic global public health success. We cannot afford a backslide. As a result of these gains and other interventions, child survival has significantly improved; with reduction of infant mortality from 111 per 1,000 live births in 2003 to 60 per 1,000 live births as at the last Demographic and Health Survey in 2014,” he noted.
He said despite the progress made, much still needed to be done, urging all to ensure that successive cohorts of children born receive all the vaccines that they need in a timely manner.
“The barriers to reaching every child in every community with immunization services vary across countries. I would, therefore, urge all Ghanaians to take advantage of the enabling political atmosphere and use the opportunity to get our children vaccinated.”