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Communication In Action

Nigeria

Polio Info
Women in a high risk community of Northern Nigeria vaccinate a child
during a women’s compound meeting.
  • For the latest case count in Nigeria please click here.
  • In 2012 Nigeria is the global epicentre of polio transmission. It accounts for 55% of the global cases and is the only country in the world affected by transmission of all three serotypes: WPV1, WPV3 and an on-going circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. There has been a rise in cases in northern Nigeria, especially in the areas of Borno, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe, more than one-third of all children remain under-immunized and there is a risk that the polio virus may spread from this region to Niger, Burkina Faso and possibly even into Mali.
  • The country is focused on improving its microplans; revising operational plans in high-risk LGAs; improving vaccinator team selection, training and supervision; sensitizing the quality of independent monitoring; focus advocacy and accountability activities on worst-performing areas; and, fast-tracking the deployment of personnel to identify worst-performing areas.
  • Non-compliance is still having profound impacts on the programme, however, it is expected that ongoing advocacy efforts and the newly-launched Polio- Free Torch campaign will increase the commitment level of Governors and LGA chairmen in the high risk states.

 

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Spotlight on missed children

 

With 52 WPV cases in 2011, Nigeria is experiencing a surge of polio, and remains the only endemic country in Africa. The programme is addressing challenges in campaign quality and community engagement whilst dealing with a deteriorating security situation in the aftermath of August’s attack on the UN.

 

The northern states of Borno, Kano, Jigawa and Kebbi account for 85% of all cases nationally, and the worsening security situation in these states risks further declines in coverage. States like Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Kaduna and Plateau have faced repeated incidents of violence in 2011, and bombings and killings have become almost routine occurrences in Borno.

 

Nationally the percentage of non-polio AFP cases with zero doses of OPV fell from 3% in 2010 to 2% in 2011. However, Borno has more than 12% zero dose children followed by Kano (7%), and Katsina (5%). Three high-risk states – Gombe, Jigawa and Yobe – have improved over the past year, reporting no zero dose AFP cases. Progress has also been achieved nationally this year with 75% of the AFP cases having more than 4 doses, up from 68% in 2010.

 

 

Reasons for missed children

 

Child absence

 

Child absent’ was the main reason for missed children in 2011, accounting for over 50% of missed children in every campaign, and 66% in November (see Figure NIG1).

 

Children who are absent when vaccination teams visit are usually at playgrounds, which are most often not far from their homes. Other times, they may be at social events, which often take place in or nearby the household. In Sokoto, for example, 32% of children absent from the house in the September campaign were identified to be in the playground, while 27% were in the fields, and 19% were attending a social event with their mother or father (see Figure NIG2).

 

These absent children can be recovered with a little extra effort and this needs to be monitored and emphasized more strongly in programme review meetings, and included routinely in microplans and field monitoring.

 

 

 

 

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Persistent refusal

 

Persistent community resistance to the programme is profoundly impacting progress in Nigeria. Caregivers in Nigeria still refuse to vaccinate their children more frequently than any other country in the world, with 25% of missed children in the fourth quarter due to refusals (See Figure NIG3). In many of the high risk wards where campaigns do not achieve 90% coverage, this means that upwards of 3% of all children are missed due to refusal.

 

States like Borno, Kano, Jigawa and Yobe still have a high number of LGAs with persistent non-compliance (>300 households) that leaves these communities more vulnerable to polio. In the November campaign, Kano state had the highest non-compliance (39%) which has remained a trend throughout the year.

 

In Sokoto, “no felt need” is a dominating reason for refusal, with almost half of caregivers refusing OPV citing this reason. (See Figure NIG4) Many social studies have revealed that high risk populations in Nigeria do not know how many doses of OPV their children require. Additionally, caregivers have concerns over the safety and effectiveness of OPV, or do not feel their children are susceptible to polio, which could contribute to the response of “no felt need.” Other social and political norms also contribute to refusals. In Kano, for example, “no caregiver consent” is the largest reason for refusal.

 

Pilots demonstrate progress

 

Although refusals in Nigeria are still the largest in the world, rates have declined compared to 2010, when at one point, non-compliance accounted for 47% of children missed during campaigns nationally. Communication activities implemented in 59 high risk wards as part of the Intensified Ward Communication Strategy (IWCS) have shown results in 2011, particularly in addressing localized pockets of refusal. These interventions, however, do not reach everywhere, and efforts are underway to expand community engagement activities in Nigeria.

 

Grassroots programmes that deploy local volunteers to map and search for unvaccinated children in their own communities, as well as to engage with caregivers who refuse vaccine, are showing good results so far (see Box NIG2). In Zamfara where several new programmes have been implemented, refusals have begun to show substantial decline, going from 25% in September to 12% in November. In local areas and communities, these declines are translated into hundreds of additional children immunized from one month to the next. It is critical to monitor implementation and plan scale up systematically to ensure activities are implemented in areas where they can make the greatest impact.

 

 

Click to view larger imageAwareness levels have increased dramatically in Nigeria, going from 75% in 2010, according to KAP results, to 98% consistently in 2011, as per Independent Monitoring data (see Figure 5).

 

The proportion of caregivers informed about campaigns through interpersonal sources remains high in 2011, with 42% of caregivers citing friends, local leaders, mobilizers or town criers as their main source of information in November. This is especially important in high risk areas where caregivers are more likely to avoid OPV, and where interpersonal sources can be most persuasive.

 

Translating high awareness into demand

 

Campaign data reveals consistently that up to 80% of caregivers’ decisions to vaccinate their children are influenced by their spouse. Community dialogues involving men and compound meetings with women have been intensified in high risk wards to ensure that the high levels of awareness translate into greater acceptance of immunization services.

 

But in areas with high awareness levels that continue to see high rates of non-compliance, questions about the quality of communication activities naturally arise. With a limited number of UNICEF LGA level communication consultants who operate in only 26 LGAs, it is extremely difficult to closely monitor and support all activities.

 

Scaling up

 

In 2012, UNICEF will scale up the number of staff deployed to Kano, Kebbi and Sokoto states. To continue building the IWCS, 957 volunteers will be recruited in high risk wards and settlements in the three highest risk states of Kano, Kebbi and Sokoto.

 

These volunteers will continue to scale up the innovative pilots initiated in 2011, and will provide additional supervision to ensure activities are implemented with quality. Deployment and training will be completed by the end of February, 2012.

 

The scale up will also be combined with investments in stronger monitoring and evaluation systems that will enable the network to function more effectively. A mass media campaign that targets leaders and parents will also complement local efforts. Caregivers who are exposed to multiple, positive messages about the polio campaign are more likely to respond positively to OPV, and will have the knowledge and confidence necessary to more actively participate in the programme.

Recommendations

 

Success in Nigeria is vital for success in the rest of the continent. Therefore progress in 2012 is critical, and the following recommendations must be implemented with some urgency:

  • Complete the recruitment and training of community mobilizers by March 2012.
  • Establish a community-based monitoring system of the comprehensive IWCS project by March 2012.
  • Continue the Polio Free Torch advocacy and media campaign and monitor its impact.
  • Improve the quality of community based interventions by developing new communication materials (including a new Majigi film production).
  • Continue to identify reasons for refusal through implementing a non-compliance study.
 

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Rapid investigation

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