Parents risk jail for skipping polio drops

Kano - Parents who do not allow their children to be vaccinated against polio now risk jail for defying a government order aimed at ensuring that the disease is eradicated from Africa's most populous nation, authorities said on Friday.

Tajuddeen Gambo, the permanent secretary of the Kano state health ministry, said that Nigeria has a law that punishes parents who refuse their children access to health care.

"Polio immunisation is part of health care," Gambo said.

Kano state is located at the heart of Nigeria's impoverished and Muslim-dominated north where polio vaccines have been met with resistance by a minority, but health officers say that minority is enough to compromise the entire door-to-door campaign.

"When they come to my house, I will tell them there are no children in this house," says a 45-year-old politician in the village of Dungurawa, just outside the city of Kano.

"If they insist, I will not let them in."

He said he was skeptical about government concern with polio alone.

"What about the other diseases?"

Just over a week ago, Unicef announced at a meeting held with northern traditional and religious leaders that 20 new polio cases had been found in Nigeria's north this year and that two of them were in Kano state.

This came after Nigeria had seen a marked reduction in cases over the past few years from 338 cases in 2009 to a recorded 21 cases of polio in 2010.

Several local and international partners have collaborated to address the issue of non-compliant communities who reject the vaccine for various religious, political, and practical reasons.



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