Nigeria fights Polio with technology

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Written by Alyssa Clark With telemedicine growing exponentially in a variety of healthcare fields, it is no wonder why countries all over the world ar...

Written by Alyssa Clark


With telemedicine growing exponentially in a variety of healthcare fields, it is no wonder why countries all over the world are capitalizing on its ability to help nations near and far. The most recent implementation and success of telemedicine is currently ongoing in Nigeria, where telemedicine has become a fundamental component in the Nigerian efforts to combat the nation’s fight against Polio.

Nigeria’s northern Kano state is known for Polio running rampant across the region, with dozens of international public health teams going door-to-door in hopes of conducting immunizations. In hopes of eradicating the spread of the terrible disease, all children under five are required to receive an immunization as part of a desperate final push to produce change. Doctor Mahmud Zubairu telecommutes as the coordinator of this vaccination project, and works remotely with those in Nigeria via real time state-of-the-art technology.

“It is now easy to monitor the immunization coverage of each vaccination team because the phone trackers each team carries along generate tracks which are sent via satellite to our website,” the medical doctor told AFP.

“That enables us to compute with a high degree of precision the number of houses the vaccinators have covered each day during a campaign”.

With the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, Dr. Zubairu works out of his office in the city of Kano to wipe of this horrendous epidemic. This phone-tracking technology was the idea of the WHO, but was funded by the charitable foundation to begin work on this potentially successful four year project. Kano has been targeted specifically due to its high prevalence of Polio, and since most parents in the region still reject the Polio vaccine. Many of the native people to the Kano region are suspicious of the immunization programs, with the number of home visits to administer vaccines at an all-time low.

"The tracking is all in a bid to increase vaccination coverage and ensure good supervision," said Zubairu.

The phone-tracking technology will help medical professionals target areas for increased vaccination programs, while also demonstrating the regions receiving vaccinations. The phone-tracking shows when a vaccination team stays at a location for more than 2 minutes, as well as the tracking system being able to determine what kind of location the team is visiting (i.e a house, school, or other public building).

"If no tracks are found in any box it means that house was not visited, and by that you can compute the number of houses covered and the percentage of coverage without being overwhelmed by the number of valid tracks generated in an area visited by vaccinators," Zubairu explained, “Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the world's last three countries where polio remains endemic and as such are the focus of efforts to eradicate the disease, which has also seen a sharp rise in Somalia and Syria as law and order and infrastructure broke down in both countries”.


About the Author

Alyssa Clark is the Editor of Healthcare Global


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