The effects of the polio outbreak fifteen years ago in Kano has not completely disappeared, at road junctions and turns one can still find young people who were victims hanging around.
Abdulahi who is thirty three years of age has said the sight of these people with paralyzed arms and paralyzed legs brought the feeling of sadness and then the inspiration to join the Volunteer Community Mobilizers (VCM). The VCM are the women teams trained specially by UNICEF for this cause.
About twenty thousand of volunteers make their movement from house to house in Nigeria, educating people concerning polio and administering polio vaccines. August 21 marked the third year of no wild polio reports in Nigeria and it was widely celebrated across the nation. It points to the possibility of Nigeria or even Africa being certified free of polio.
When the VCM started in 2012, the polio virus was still widely spread in Nigeria. It was however less than 2006 where over 1000 cases of polio were reported, only 122 cases were reported in 2012.
The VCMs have not only helped in the eradication of polio but is also helping in improving system of health care in Nigeria. Consisting of women only, it helps them gain easy access into Nigerian homes.
The chairperson of polio transition program, Ngozi Nwosu has said that women who are chosen to be part of the exercise are women whom the community respects and puts so much confident and trust in.
The recruitment of women through the northern region of Nigeria was done by UNICEF. The women were trained to administer the vaccines and also to identify the signs and symptoms of the ailment.
This has created not just women who vaccinates but a team of women who can readily identify and report any outbreak which will attract a quick reaction from governmental agencies and local organizations.
In 2013, just a year after VCM started, wild polio reduced to around 53 and just six cases in 2014. After that till now, just four more were reported.
Kabiru Rabiu, the UNICEF official in charge for the ailment has praised the women and said their advantages and usefulness is so much and cannot be measured.
The role of women in the system of health care has always been important but just few women are always found in the leadership. Only four out of the forty four local government areas in Kano have their healthcare coordinators as women. Nwosu Ngozi however says the role of women have been boosted because of VCM program.
The VCM program have however gone beyond the polio vaccination, it has spread to helping women in areas of childbirth due to ignorance. Other vaccines like measles vaccines are also now been provided by the VCMs. They also help with antenatal and help to encourage women to deliver their babies in hospitals instead of staying at home. This has helped to lower death rate of women during childbirth.
In expectation for Nigeria to declared Polio free in 2020, attention is being directed to using this already specially trained workers for something beyond polio. The chairperson, Ngozi Nwosu has explained that the Nigeria government plans to recruit extra women into another program named CHIPS. The CHIPS will focus on helping to improve primary health and maternal care in villages and rural areas.
The VCM can be said to have changed the society and will impact the coming women generation and girls greatly.
However, the VCM program is still subjected to payment challenges. The women receive 10,000 naira stipend monthly and some women complained of not receiving payment for more than one month.
The UNICEF deputy representative in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, has expressed her pity with the view that the women deserved to be treated better as their dedication to the course has shown they are committed to the communities. She says the system is not yet perfect.