“My husband abandoned us two years ago because he believed that our son Susu’s polio condition was a result of a curse in our family”, says Nadia Angayika, a 30-year-old mother of four. Four-year-old Susu is Nadia’s the third child. The family lives in a village in Magwi County of South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria State.
“In April 2019, I took Susu to Nimule Primary Health Care Centre (PHCC) since he could not sit. He was weak from the hands and legs. After two weeks, he was discharged and the doctor advised us for him to undergo physiotherapy”, Nadia shares.
During one of her routine home visits, Jackline Taban, a community key informant informed Alex Oniba, one of the CORE Group’s boma health promoter about the condition of Susu. On that same evening, Alex visited Susu’s family accompanied by Jackline.
After the visit, Alex informed Onzi Justine, the project assistant supervising the project activities in Pageri, Mugali, Nimule and Moli Payams of Magwi County, who in turn notified the World Health Organization (WHO) field supervisor based in Nimule.
“I reported Susu’s condition to the supervisor but since it was already an old condition, we encouraged the family to continue with physiotherapy”, says Onzi. Nadia said the continuous visit and support from the project team gave her better understanding of her son’s condition and the danger posed by polio to children.
“During one of these visits, I made up my mind to become an advocate to my own community, especially among mothers who have children about Susu’s age. I promised myself that no child should go through my son’s condition, convincing them for their children to be polio vaccinated”, adds Nadia.
I made up my mind to become an advocate to my own community, especially among mothers who have children about Susu’s age. I promised myself that no child should go through my son’s condition, convincing them for their children to be polio vaccinated.
Nadia is a self-employed mother who has a mobile tea and porridge shop at the Nimule-Elegu border between South Sudan and Uganda. According to her, a cup of tea or porridge costs 200 South Sudanese Pounds (US$0.5). She can sell up to 20 cups a day.
She turned her experience into advocacy, campaigning in her community. Nadia says, “I was not happy with the life of my son. I was frustrated and worried when my husband left. But with four children to care for, I have to be strong and work hard for them. No more self-pity.”
She adds, “When mothers come to my home or in my shop, I share my story and advise them to take their children to the hospital for immunization, listen to the community key informants to protect their family’s health. They must never hide any health concerns from them.”
Nadia explained that due to the closeness of Abila to Nimule town, most parents go out for business in the morning only to return in the night, leaving their children alone at home unattended to. “I educate the mothers on polio at every opportunity since most of them are busy and will not waste time when buying a cup of tea or porridge”, she says.
Nadia remembered a visit of three women who scolded her for advocating about polio. She says, “I thought they came to support. Then they called me names and rebuked me for educating others about polio. They told me that child would never recover. I was shocked but my mother gave me courage to be strong and continue talking to the mothers.”
Nadia’s 60-year old mother Asina Chandiya, takes care of the children when she is working. “Nadia does not have enough income to feed us, pay the house rent and send her children to school. I keep Susu in the house so that goats and ducks do not trample over him whenever I am busy”, Asina says.
She adds, “I hope that Susu will one day talk and move on a wheelchair. I always tell my daughter that God has a purpose and a plan for everyone.” Nadia said she encourages mothers of children like Susu to be strong. “Take good care of these children and never isolate them since all children are a blessing from God.”
Project Manager Anthony Kisanga says, “Through the funding from US Agency for International Development (USAID), the CORE Group Polio Project trains community key informants on community based surveillance to identify suspected cases of acute flaccid paralysis, measles, adverse events following immunization, yellow fever, Ebolavirus and COVID 19 in their communities and report them.”
He adds, “The project’s boma health promoters also create community awareness on mode of transmission and prevention of these infectious diseases. The community-based surveillance system has contributed to early detection and reporting of suspected cases of diseases in hard-to-reach communities.”
Story and photos by Jemima Tumalu, Communications Officer