A Mother’s Unwavering Commitment: Ryan’s first Polio Vaccination

What seemingly started like an ordinary morning for Whyy Mutumbunzou (21), with her routine house chores, including caring for her only child, 1-year-old Ryan, took an unexpected and thrilling turn. A radio broadcast message from the MoHCC encouraging all mothers and caregivers to bring their children under five years for the 4th round of the Polio vaccination campaign.

By Own Correspondent

Despite not knowing what Polio was, Whyy enthusiastically gathered her belongings and walked briskly with her son to the nearest clinic, Hatcliff Family Health Services. For Whyy, the choice was clear, guided by her unwavering principle regarding her son’s well-being.

The health of my child is most important; if children are healthy, the country thrives,” said the energetic mother with conviction.

Poliomyelitis, commonly known as Polio, is a highly infectious and contagious disease that attacks the body’s nervous system. In severe cases, this can become permanent, leading to a loss of use of the limbs. Polio can also paralyze the muscles responsible for breathing and swallowing, and without medical intervention, death is imminent. There is no cure for Polio, and the primary prevention means the Polio vaccination.

Countries neighboring Zimbabwe reported cases of Polio in 2022, putting children under five years in Zimbabwe at high risk of contracting the disease. To protect all children under five years, the government, through the MoHCC conducts periodic rounds of Polio Vaccination countrywide to increase immunity against the disease until the threat is over. The first round started in October 2022, with the fourth round completed in October 2023. All children under five who received vaccinations in previous rounds, continue to be protected with recommended supplementary polio vaccine doses during subsequent campaigns as long as they are still below five years of age

Health care workers
Two healthcare workers from the Hatcliff Family Health Services Clinic responsible for administering the polio vaccination. (Rutendo Bamhare)

Dr. Alex Adjagba, Chief of Health and Nutrition for UNICEF in Zimbabwe reminisced about his days working in pediatrics and emphasized the irreplaceable value of the polio vaccine during a visit to Hatcliff Family Health Services for the vaccination campaign. He commended the government for its strong leadership and collaborative efforts.

 “I am pleased to witness the ongoing polio vaccination campaign; the only way to protect children is through vaccination, he said. “Under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Child Care and in collaboration with our partners, we’ve successfully administered polio vaccinations nationwide.”

UNICEF supported the MoHCC in Zimbabwe to launch the fourth round of the nationwide polio campaign, which ran from 10 October to 13 October, aiming to reach over 2.6 million children under five. The campaign strategy also included house-to-house visits to ensure all eligible children received the vaccine.

Millions of children across Zimbabwe, have received the polio vaccination from MoHCC, UNICEF and its partners, including donors Japan, Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)  the Health Resilience Fund – the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Polio Vaccination
Dr Alex Adjagba, Chief of Health and Nutrition and Health Specialist Egnes Makwabarara administering a polio vaccination at the Hatcliff Family Health Services Clinic. (Rutendo Bamhare)

Near Hatcliff Family Health Services, a dedicated team comprised of health workers thrived as they aimed to reach their daily target of 300 polio immunizations. This health promotion tactic proved instrumental in reaching and addressing vaccine-resistant mothers and caregivers, including those unable to travel to health centers.

Whyy’s commitment to prioritizing her son’s health was not a decision made lightly. It began during her pregnancy with Ryan, after facing complications in her final trimester. Despite being registered at Hatcliff Family Health Services, Whyy was advised to opt for a home delivery with traditional midwives. Reluctantly, she declined this offer and proceeded to go to the clinic. Her positive experience during Ryan’s birth instilled a deep trust in the clinic, assuring her that bringing Ryan for his polio vaccination was the only choice.

Today, Ryan is a healthy and charismatic little boy who captured the attention of everyone at the clinic after eagerly agreeing to receive his first polio vaccination with a bright and infectious smile.

UNICEF COMMS

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