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Nigerians try to dampen polio fears
By Andrew Walker
Ahmed Tudun-Wada idolises
Sitting with friends in
Aminu's own legs lie crossed and shrivelled underneath him, all feeling taken by polio.
It pains him that children in
But polio did not stop Aminu from following his football dreams. At 47, he is the coach of the Kano Para-Soccer team, a 14-strong squad made up of polio sufferers.
They play by swatting the ball with their hands and scoot around on roller skates fixed to planks.
Aminu proudly says, "Our captain Awolo is known as 'the director', he models himself on David Beckham!"
They have won three trophies, and competed in the Para-African Nation's cup last year.
Aminu, a welder and carpenter who runs a workshop with other polio-struck artisans, accompanies immunisation teams organised by a partnership of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Nigerian government, the American Centre for Disease Control, children's charity Unicef and the charity Rotary International.
"If the parents refuse," Aminu says, "I go in and say, 'Do you want your children to end up like me?' They usually change their minds."
He is part of a scheme to improve inoculation in northern
Highly infectious disease that is caused by a virus
Attacks the nervous system, initially causing fever, tiredness, headache and vomiting.
One in 200 cases causes permanent paralysis - most often in the legs
Out of these as many as 10% of cases are fatal
The virus affects mostly children under five
There is no cure but there are a number of highly effective vaccines
In 1990, health experts said eradicating polio, the paralysing virus spread by sewage-infected water, was possible within 15 years.
But in 2003, the
Almost immediately cases emerged in neighbouring countries thought to be free of polio.
The authorities, with the help of people like Aminu, have regained the trust of some of the population. This year, new cases of the wild polio virus dropped considerably.
By August only 198 cases were recorded across 21 states. For the same period in 2006, there were 945 cases recorded in 18 states.
But now these achievements are under threat.
A new strain has emerged: it is a rare, mutated form of the virus which comes from the vaccine.
At least 69 children have been infected between 2006 and 2007, by this vaccine derived polio virus or VDPV.
is our government in all this?
Experts at the WHO say the boycott caused this problem. Not enough people have been vaccinated and are vulnerable to the new mutated strain.
At a conference in
The state commissioner for health, Aisha Isyaku Kiru, said many people are illiterate and do not trust medicine.
They refused to release any more details about the outbreak other
than saying it is thought to come from one source and 39 cases are in
"If it comes out," she said, "and people believe the vaccine causes the virus and can even infect other people, do you think that they will go and get vaccinated again?
"They will not. They will not do as they should and go and clean their environment, they will blame the vaccine."
The vaccine is given to children in a little drop on the tongue.
It passes through the gut and can be picked up by people who come into contact with sewage infected water.
In countries with successful inoculation programmes this is not harmful, but according to the WHO, two years ago the virus mutated in a blocked sewer or pit latrine and regained its virulent nature.
This is the biggest such outbreak the world has yet seen.
Dr Ameen Al-Deen Abubakar, a cleric who supported the boycott before being convinced by the WHO the vaccine was safe, said the state government was mostly responsible for the problems it faced.
"We should thank our foreign friends for coming to help," he said.
"But we should ask, where is our government in all this? If this came about because of unsanitary conditions, isn't that the government's responsibility?"Story from BBC NEWS: