Polio vaccination as a doorway to adequate health care

Publié: 30 avril 2015

Geneva/ Nairobi - 30 April 2015: The eradication of polio remains one of the most pressing health challenges in Africa, stresses an advocacy report released today by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) at the closing of the World Immunization Week.

Although Africa has gone eight  months without any new cases of wild polio for the first time, the continent has witnessed the majority of global polio cases in 2013, and is home to one of the three last countries in the world where polio is still endemic, Nigeria. In 2013, sub-Saharan Africa showed the worst polio immunization record of any region. Central African Republic had the world’s lowest polio vaccination rate, with just 23 per cent of children immunized against the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Increasing vaccine uptake in Africa, specifically for polio, is such a huge task. We are faced with communities living in very remote areas or nomadic, fragile and conflict situations. The issue of access is exacerbated by suspicion and socio cultural barriers,” says Dr Adinoyi Ben Adeiza, health and care coordinator, IFRC Africa. “We have seen first-hand how our Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, who are trusted by their communities, can substantially increase vaccine uptake”.

In Burkina Faso, for example, the number of children who were not vaccinated and still susceptible to contract polio, was significantly lower in areas where the Burkinabe Red Cross Society had conducted social mobilization activities.

Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, like the ones in Burkina, have reached more than 10 million children and more than 1 million households in 17 sub-Saharan African countries between 2009 and 2013. They are trusted leaders in their communities and can ensure greater access to a combination of essential life-saving, culturally acceptable health care services to stop the spread of infectious diseases like polio.

Polio is highly contagious and one of the most difficult diseases to eradicate. About 90 per cent of all children in any given community must receive multiple immunizations to wipe out the virus. No other global health effort in history has posed such a logistical challenge.

Violence and high levels of insecurity continue to pose a significant barrier to access to health care in general, and vaccination against polio specifically. In fragile states where health professionals are particularly scarce, harnessing community resources and strengthening community involvement in health service delivery is vital.

“We believe every child can be reached but only if we invest seriously in the capacity and sustained engagement of local organizations and our local community health workforce,” says Alasan  Senghore, Director, IFRC Africa. “In order to achieve success, and prove once and for all that all children deserve the same life-saving vaccines and access to the same health services, no matter who they are or where they live, we must act quickly and in partnership with each other to dramatically increase vaccination coverage.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the worlds largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

Note to editors


-   Our report “Towards a polio-free Africa: Reaching the most vulnerable by strengthening community access to health care” explores initiatives currently underway in Africa to eradicate polio, the role technology can play in evidence-based data collection on polio vaccine uptake, and a call to action for governments to recognize the crucial role of the community health work force, including Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers, in eradicating polio.


-    In 2013, 84 per cent of infants around the world (77 per cent in Africa) received three doses of polio vaccine. Targeted for global eradication, polio has been stopped in all countries except three; Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. However, polio-free countries have been infected when the virus is imported by migrant populations, and all countries, especially those experiencing conflict and instability, remain at risk until polio is fully eradicated.


-   According to WHO, 1 in 5 children is still missing out on routine life-saving immunizations that could avert 1.5 million deaths each year from preventable diseases.


-  Although Nigeria reduced its polio caseload by almost 90 per cent in 2014, and the entire continent of Africa has not seen a case since August 2014, the 2013 polio outbreak in the Horn of Africa has driven home an essential truth: every child in Africa and around the world continues to be at risk.

-      The Red Cross Red Crescent focuses on opening the door to adequate health care through our especially trained volunteers, utilizing innovative and culturally appropriate approaches.

-      From 2009 to 2013, Red Cross Red Crescent polio outreach programmes reached more than 10 million children and more than 1 million households in 17 sub-Saharan African countries. (see page 11 of the report for detailed information). In 2014, Red Cross supported polio vaccinations in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo, among others, reaching almost 30,000 and 24,000 children respectively.

For further information, please contact:

In Geneva

  • Ombretta Baggio, Senior health communications officer, IFRC

Mobile: +41 79 708 48 27 E-mail : ombretta.baggio@ifrc.org


In Addis Ababa:

  • Katherine Mueller, Communications manager, IFRC Africa

Mobile +251 930 03 3413 E-mail: katherine.mueller@ifrc.org