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Sierra Leone News: Seeing beyond polio – World Polio Day on 24 October

People living with polio can still have a successful, fulfilling and rewarding life. “Overcoming the challenges of being a polio victim,” Abdulai Dumbuya, CEO, Dorothy Springer Foundation, Sierra Leone said, “takes determination, hard-work, integrity, discipline. Despite my disability, I have seen beyond and above my disability. I knew what I wanted in life and I worked towards it.” Dumbuya is a role model to those with polio and all other young Sierra Leoneans. At the age of five years, Dumbuya contracted polio that left him with a mobility disability. He has used crutches ever since. He was sent to the Cheshire Home in Freetown where he lived and received primary education. Rising from the hardships of a poor education system, Dumbuya excelled at his studies and went on to gain a PhD from Loughborough University in the UK. On world polio day, Dumbuya expressed hope and aspiration for victims of polio as the day raises awareness about the infectious disease Poliomyelitis, commonly known as Polio. Dumbuya noted that with the celebration of the day, people can now know learn about the disease and its prevention. Dumbuya said ignorance about the infectious disease caused him discrimination and he felt left-out. He stated, “On this day, I want to encourage everyone to stop the stigma against victims of polio and to send a message that there are abilities beyond living as a polio victim. He urged parents to take their babies for vaccinations despite Sierra Leone over the years has not recalled any case of polio.” The international polio day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against the disease. WHO describes polio as a crippling and potentially fatal infectious viral disease for which there is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines for its prevention. It mainly affects children under five years of age and has a crippling effect. Polio vaccine, given multiple times, almost always protects a child for life. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (for example, contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. “We are at the end game towards polio eradication all over the world; the country has a provisional polio free certificate,” said Harold Thomas, MoHS Communications Lead for Public Health and National Emergency Operations Centre. But in 2010, Thomas said that a case of the polio virus was imported from Guinea, seven years down the line no case has been reported, so the Ministry is joining other countries in final eradication. “We do not want any surprise case of polio virus,” he said. Abs Dumbuya is an outstanding example of a person who overcame polio and who has risen to the upper echelons of society. He is not alone. There are many Sierra Leonean, men and women, who have overcome the stigma, discrimination, physical discomfort and mobility disabilities to live their dreams and accomplish great things.


By Sylvia Villa

Thursday October 25, 2018.

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