Journalists team up with WHO to create demand for Polio Immunization

The Journalists Initiative on Immunization against Polio (JAP) has strengthened collaboration with the WHO Kaduna state office to mobilize the support of religious and traditional leaders as well as other opinion moulders with the capacity to influence social decisions, in order to fight intractable non-compliance to polio  immunization in very high risk Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Already, eleven (11) Town Hall meetings have been conducted by JAP with support from WHO in very high settlements who had recorded block rejection to immunization activities with the view to sensitize the communities between January and April 2014, to reverse the earlier resolution by some irate youths to disrupt immunization exercise, as a bargaining chip at their disposal, to demand for the provision of social amenities by government.

To achieve the aforestated, Mallam Mustapha Saye, the Secretary of JAP who remained upbeat about the partnership with WHO, disclosed that influential women, traditional, religious and youth leaders from the identified settlements were invited and sensitized, on the importance of childhood immunizations since according to him ‘ the forums provide the needed  avenues for minority opinions to be heard and concerns raised directed to programme managers for the provision of accurate information on the benefits of polio immunization as well as for other routine antigens’.

The secretary, who situated the journalists’ role within the social responsibility context of their profession, stated that JAP employs the townhall meetings to promote positive and measurable behaviour change in non-compliant communities, mobilize leadership for action as well as provide an interface for discourse between the community and service providers. The method employed by the JAP include presentations from WHO through the State Immunization Officer on the benefits of childhood immunization, local theatre, distribution of appropriate  IEC materials and  pro-OPV CDs to all participants.

In her assessment, Dr. Furera Zakari, the WHO State Coordinator noted that the outcome of the collaboration surpassed the expectation, with over 1000 eligible children immunized on the spot across 11 communities. She reasoned further that ‘endorsements from leaders of the defiant community members, also have multiplier effect as media materials  produced therefrom and transmitted by different channels, often resonate with communities that harbour similar negative attitudes to engender compliance to immunization’.