Nigeria is the world’s last three countries where polio is endemic. But some new technology has seen the polio figures drastically drop in a few months note medics running a door to door immunization project in remote parts of the country.
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Nigeria had 51 out of 328 cases of the disease worldwide this year 2013, a drastic drop from 121 out of 223 in the past one year.
The drop has been attributed to the use of state of art technology and phone tracking of volunteers that administer the vaccine all viewed from a computer screen, especially in areas like Nigeria’s northern Kano state that reports high polio figures. Yet, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the world’s last three countries where polio remains endemic. Thus, they have been the focus of efforts to eradicate the disease of which reports say has incidents have risen in Somalia and Syria.
Nevertheless, while the phone-tracking idea is the brainchild of the World Health Organization (WHO), the billionaire Microsoft founder and his wife’s charitable foundation is helping to fund the four-year project.
Given the high cost of the tracking project, the Gates Foundation have focused on 40 high-risk areas in eight northern states. Kano state has been highly targeted due to its high prevalence of polio suspicious beliefs and controversies about immunization programs. However, a number of teams are more often than ever, going door-to-door to immunise every child aged under-five, as part of an aggressive push to eradicate the debilitating disease.
Through the screen of this state of art technology, medics can track which homes have received the vaccine. On the screen, yellow electronic dots appear on the satellite maps of each of Kano’s six target districts each time a vaccination team stays at a location for more than two minutes, while green horizontal and vertical grid lines divide an area into squares, with each box representing a house. In one section, the screen shows that only half of the houses were visited despite a succession of yellow dots on the Google Maps software, reports say.
Laboratory analysis both in and outside Nigeria confirmed the vaccine was safe and incidents of quacks and falsified data would be reduced, thanks to phone tracking using state of art technology.
With renewed awareness and support by local political leaders, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said that there was no reason as to why polio could not be wiped out in a year’s time.