via End Polio Now
For too long Nigeria had been on the horrible polio list. These were the countries that still had an issue with polio, and it was endemic to these three countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were the only nations is left in the entire world that still had polio as a medical issue. On the 25th of September 2015 it was announced by the World Health Organisation that Nigeria was no longer on the Polio Endemic List.
When most people heard the news that Nigeria was polio free it would have been a great achievement that a lot of people would have felt. A feat that has been aided by the help and efforts of many, many people. However, as a Nigerian woman who has polio, this was a very special moment for me as my country has come one step closer to being a polio free nation. It is a horrible disease that essentially disintegrates and atrophies the muscle that it affects. Thankfully for me I contracted polio at infancy, so I can’t remember anything of how the initial attack occurred and how it felt.
My mother has told me stories of how it happened when I was back in Nigeria. I was in bed sleeping and then all of a sudden I woke up and would not stop crying no matter what she did. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t wet, nothing was obviously wrong but I just wouldn’t stop crying. She had no idea what was going, and the following morning after I had gotten a little sleep, all seemed to be fine. She had tried to sit me down on the couch but my body was limp, and I couldn’t hold my head up. I had no motor control over my arms and legs and she has started getting frustrated as this has never happened.
Believe it or not, I was a very happy and easy going child as long as I was full, of course. No matter what she did, my head would keep lolling to the side and it was as though I had no bones in my body. It wasn’t until one of our neighbours stopped by, that she told my mother she needed to take me to the hospital immediately. Imagine being in that situation, how horrible it must have been not knowing exactly what was going on. At that time it was especially heartbreaking as I was essentially a newborn, as this all happened before I turned one. It’s a miracle that the polio attack didn’t take my life, as even when it is contracted at a later stage it had been known to take lives. Let alone that of a baby that barely had an immune system of which to speak.
The life of somebody that has a disability in my country, and Africa in general is not the easiest. It is not seen as a disability, but sometimes it is seen as a curse. Those with disabilities or ongoing medical conditions are too often killed, such as the albinos in Tanzania. Disabled people are too often marginalised in society, they are not allowed to go outside, let alone get an education and better themselves.
I have been blessed as I was able to come to London and build a life here. All the things that I have achieved thus far would not have been possible had I stayed back home. Even if they were possible, it wouldn’t have been as easy. I get renewed my calliper renewed every few years, with replacement boots. I get the crutches, amd the rubbers for those crutches that I receive free of charge from the hospital, from the NHS. All these costs would have been far too expensive for my parents to afford had we still lived in Nigeria.
It is often said by my parents and in some Nollywood films that certain diseases, certain medical conditions can only be handled by the rich. If you do not have money in Nigeria and you have a disability that requires you to get replacement callipers, replacement boots. A condition that requires you to constantly use medication to keep you alive, you will simply die from poverty. As you cannot afford to have diabetes, because you cannot afford to have asthma. These conditions will bankrupt you and your family before it will kill you.
I am so incredibly happy in the knowledge that polio is closer to becoming a disease of the past in Nigeria, and the world as a whole. That some time soon, nobody else will have to go through such a terrible thing. And thanks to the tireless of so many people, and organisations around the globe, we are inching ever closer. I am hopeful that there will be no new cases in Nigeria, so in two years from now, the whole continent of Africa will be polio free. Only two more countries remain on the endemic polio list, but in the mean time, in true Nigerian fashion, we celebrate!
Have any of you been affected by polio, or know someone who has? How do you feel after this amazing announcement?