Living with Polio in Northern Nigeria
In August 2016, four new cases of wild poliovirus were reported in Nigeria's Borno State, in areas affected by Boko Haram insurgency. Polio paralyses it's victims and there is no cure for it. The only way to fight it is to vaccinate all the children, a difficult task in areas threatened by rebels. New cases were the first cases since July 2014. If Nigeria can go three years without a new poliovirus case, it will be declared a non-endemic country. That date has now been pushed from July 2017 to August 2019, but only if no new cases are found in the meantime. The stakes are high - polio will remain a threat until it is completely eradicated.
Still, Nigeria has achieved a lot. In 2008 it reported the most new polio cases in the world. The majority of new infections were concentrated around Kano, a major city in the predominantly Muslim north of the country. Once the government, traditional and religious leaders stepped together, the reluctance to vaccinations slowly eroded. Still, thousands of people now live with life-long disabilities caused by polio. Some of the polio victims have self-organized and they continue to inform the public about the importance of immunization, persuade parents to send their crippled children to school and to provide training in different vocational trades to victims who can now earn a living with their work. And for entertainment they invented para-soccer.
Photo: A schoolmate carries Adamu Yusif who is unable to walk due to polio to the classroom on the second floor of their primary school in Kano. Buildings and sidewalks in Kano are mostly not adjusted for the physically handicapped.
Members of Kano Polio Victims Trust Association (KPVTA) praying at their headquarters in Kano. Polio is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a virus and spreads by ingesting contaminated food or sewage-infected water. In most cases polio paralyses one or both legs of the victim which also prevents the normal development of muscles.
Member of KPVTA exits organization's car at the KPVTA headquarters where members meet regularly. Polio victims mostly can't walk and depending on how their limbs were affected by the disease they use different ways to move. Often they use knees and protect their hands with flip-flops.
Water from a water-well which is located less than a hundred yards from the nearby open dump site runs into a bucket. Well-water like this is found in many neighborhoods of Kano and is used by residents for washing dishes, clothes and bathing.
Aminu Ahmed Tudun-Wada, chairman of KPVTA, with two of his children at his home in Kano. Umar (R) is his only child affected by polio. Umar was born in 2003 when immunization was boycotted in the State of Kano and its surroundings; he contracted polio few months after his birth.
Members of KPVTA practicing para-soccer. They can reach high speed by sitting on small wooden skateboards and pushing themselves by hands protected by flip-flops.
Sani Abdullahi welds together parts of bicycles. He works in the welding workshop where he transforms bicycles into hand-operated tricycles for use by polio victims.
A motorbike drives by the tricycles that are for sale at the KPVTA headquarters. Because the polio victims can't use their legs to pedal, tricycles are constructed in a way that they can be operated by hands.
Polio victims Naja Atu Yusif (L) and Adamu Yusif (R), in the courtyard of their primary school in Kano. While Naja can limp, Adamu can't walk and has to use a tricycle to move around.
Hand-drawn map of houses and streets in the catchment area of one of Tarauni local government's polio vaccination teams, and the list of important locations the team would cover in this part of Kano.
A day before the beginning of Subnational Immunization Days, vaccination team from Tarauni local government in Kano picks up polio vaccine at North West Zonal Cold Store in Kano.
House-to-house polio vaccination team is passing some children who had already been immunized in Kura, Kano State, during Subnational immunization days. They were on the way to revisit a house where earlier nobody was home.
Girl receives polio vaccine in Kaduna, northern Nigeria city, during polio national immunization days (NIDs). During NIDs teams of vaccinators try to reach every child in Nigeria.
Rukayya Saminu, vaccinator, administers polio vaccine to a girl during Subnational immunzation days in Kura, Kano State.
Bahayura Ahmad, team leader of one of the polio vaccination teams, writes the vaccination success rate on the wall of the house the team visited in Tarauni local government in Kano. In this case all five children were immunized against polio.
Abu Isah, vaccinator at Nassarawa Hospital in Kano, administers IPV polio vaccine to a child. Several hospitals in Kano now conduct IPV polio vaccinations every workday as part of their regular children immunization program.
Boys play soccer in Tiga.