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Second polio drive due next month

The ministry of Health will conduct a second polio immunization campaign in 41 high-risk districts next month.

A three-day nationwide polio drive ended on Monday, but officials have told The Observer that more effort is needed in areas such as Wakiso and border districts.

“The selected high-risk districts have challenges of low performance in routine immunization, suboptimal polio surveillance indicators, an influx of refugees and massive cross-border movements,” said Dr Robert Mayanja, programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunisation (UNEPI).

According to preliminary results from UNEPI, 90 per cent of the targeted children were covered.

“In the rural areas, we noticed a few glitches of false information which some people used as a means of not bringing children for immunization. But with the help of village health teams and police, we were able to get many of them on board,” Mayanja said.

One such area was Luweero, where witch doctors and members of the Abajiri religious cult in Kamila sub-county blocked the vaccination teams from touching their children.

Cult followers reportedly said they don’t believe in numbers, yet every child vaccinated has to be counted and recorded. Witch- doctors, for their part, said they could treat any ailment traditionally and did not need immunization.

“Immediately after registering the complaint from Robert Sejjemba, the supervisor of the exercise in our sub-county, I called police to intervene because this was total sabotage of a government programme,” Kamila sub-county Chairman Livingstone Kategaya told The Observer on Monday.

In September 2014, more than 300 followers of Abajiri, led by Sunday Mujiiri and Peter Kayiise in Luweero and Nakasongola districts respectively, fled their homes to evade arrest, after they rejected the national population and housing census. Dr Agaba Byamukama, a member of the committee that oversaw the polio drive in Luweero, said besides the hostile reception in some areas, the funding was not enough.

“We were given Shs 103m to do, among other things, mobilize the populace, pay medics and facilitate local council leaders to move around the medics, but it was insufficient,” Byamukama said. “We needed Shs 200m. As a result the field has been hard despite the exercise ending.”

Underestimated

In Masindi, meanwhile, it was the opposite scenario, with some residents complaining that despite being ready with their children, no vaccinators turned up. Complaints mostly came from such areas as Habitat for Humanity-Katama cell, Civic ward, Central division.

“We were told to stay at home starting on Saturday January 17 until the exercise ended on Monday 19th. We remained patient on Saturday and Sunday when nobody appeared to immunize the children, hoping that they would surface on Monday. Unfortunately, they did not come,” said John Mark Muhimbo, a father of two resident in Katama.

The acting principal medical officer for Masindi municipal council, Michael Muddu, regretted the mishaps; he said they did not have enough logistics to all the area, which meant some children missed out.

ninsiima@observer.ug

Reported by Racheal Ninsiima, Bernard Bakalu & Priscillar Nyamahunge

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