ABUJA, 22 June (IPS) — Over the course of forty days, Kunle Adeyanju, a Nigerian, Rotarian, polio eradicator and biker, traveled over 12,500 km from London to Lagos to raise funds for polio eradication.
Adeyanju has documented his journey on Twitter, where his alias is aptly named @lionheart1759. Indeed, only a lion-hearted person can embark on such a daring adventure. People love a philanthropist Bill Gateswhich is dedicated to the eradication of polio, and the CEO of Twitter, Parag Agrawaltweeted their support and admiration.
I also followed Adeyanju’s journey on Twitter and applaud him too, also because I love watching people chase their dreams, no matter how terrible they may seem. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president and former president of Liberia, aptly expressed this sentiment: “The size of your dreams should always exceed your current capacity to realize them. If your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.”
I also support his cause. Poliomyelitis is a serious infectious disease that causes muscle paralysis, as well as death when the respiratory muscles are affected. In the past, polio victims who couldn’t breathe on their own were put on heart-lung machines so they could breathe. Thanks to the effectiveness of the polio vaccine, this is history.
I am a proud graduate of the Polio Eradication Program. This was my first experience in global health. As a young monitoring, evaluation and surveillance specialist in the Nigerian National Immunization Programme, I participated in the global polio response initiative supporting advocacy, training of health workers and surveillance of routine and polio vaccination throughout Nigeria.
In recent years, we have seen the world community come a long way, almost making polio the second infectious disease (after smallpox) to be eradicated. Without a doubt, Rotary International has been a major partner and sponsor along the way. I am a member of the Rotary International family and was President of the Rotaract Club at Nnamdi Azikiwe University College of Medicine, Nnevi, South East Nigeria. Rotary International launched a global polio vaccination campaign in 1985.
Three years later, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was created. At that time, polio paralyzed more than 1,000 children worldwide every day. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated against polio. Consequently, the global incidence of polio has decreased by 99%. Currently, wild poliovirus continues to circulate in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nigeria interrupted polio transmission in 2019.
Even in the face of dwindling resources and competing needs, efforts to eradicate polio must continue, because as long as even a few people have polio, it can spread widely again. Final five-year plan push eradicating polio would cost roughly less than $1 billion a year.
Like Adeyange, Gates and others, I want polio to be completely eradicated. These are four areas where this $5 billion could make this possible.
First, the polio vaccine is needed to vaccinate all eligible children. To be fully protected for life, children need four doses of polio vaccines. There are two types of polio vaccines – oral and injectable. Based UNICEF estimates, the cost of oral polio vaccine per fully vaccinated child is $0.42. In contrast, the injectable polio vaccine costs $2.78.
Second, polio surveillance is an ongoing process necessary to prevent and detect the virus. The polio virus is shed in feces. This is why polio transmission is faecal-oral.
This makes polio transmission common in communities with poor sanitation and widespread public defecation. Surveillance activities include collecting and checking the stools of children who rapidly develop paralysis after bouts of fever. In addition, environmental surveillance of polio includes the collection and testing of wastewater for the polio virus.
Thirdly, the storage of vaccines using modern cold chain equipment. Maintaining a proper cold chain for vaccines requires constant electricity, which is in short supply in all communities in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, only 48% of sub-Saharan African countries have access to electricity. according to the World Bank.
So clean renewable energy like solar is a sustainable way to ensure the right cold chain for vaccines. In some African countries, some primary health care centers are already using solar freezers to store vaccines. Solar freezers are expensive. A solar-powered direct-drive freezer sold on the African Union’s “African Health Products Platform” costs $5797.56.
Finally, public health education is essential to achieve equity in the eradication of polio and to continue successful vaccination campaigns in polio-free countries. Indeed, University of Global Health Equity, Rwanda captures in short, “Achieving equity in health depends on equity in health education.”
Polio education is conducted in communities with the involvement of local health workers, community leaders and community organizations. Other means include the use of radio, television, print and electronic media. More information about poliomyelitis should be carried out through social networks. Adeyanju made polio relevant to youth on social media by following his heart and chasing his dream.
Adeyanju’s daring journey from London to Lagos brought polio to the forefront of international discourse, especially in this time of covidization of everything.
Through his actions, he gave an affirmative answer to Rotary International’s four-pronged review of what people say, think, or do:
This is true? – Yes
Is it fair for all stakeholders? – Yes
Will it strengthen goodwill and better friendships? – Yes
Will it benefit all stakeholders? – Yes
Thank you Kunle Adeyanju. Your courage will save lives and save children from paralysis. You are a hero.
Dr. Ifeani McWilliams Nsofor is a graduate of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He is New Voices Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute and Atlantic Senior Fellow in Health Equity at George Washington University.
© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedSource: Inter Press Service