This is the final blog of a four-part series from U.K. Broadcaster and ex-Paralympian Ade Adepitan. Ade recently went back to his birth country of Nigeria to see why kids in his country were still getting polio.
The day after I met Josefa and his father, we organized a rally of nearly 100 polio survivors from Sokoto and marched to Sultan of Sokoto’s palace. Many of the survivors that came on the march had rarely ventured out of their homes especially the women. So this march was a liberating moment, it was beautiful to see these people who had been badly disfigured by polio, crawling, dragging, skating using whatever means necessary to travel on the two mile walk to the palace.
Check out this video of the incredible march.
At the start of the march they were shy and quite, by the end they were strong and confident. Maybe they’d been emboldened by being in a large group that shared a common cause. I don’t know what it was but by the end of the march I felt so proud of them all. I hope they remember the moment when they chanted defiantly on the streets of Sokoto: “Kick Polio out of Nigeria!” For the first time they had made people listen to them, and sometimes all it takes is one powerful moment to start the winds of change.
There was so much more that happened on this trip that touched me, so much sadness, so much frustration. Even when we got back to the UK, Nigeria stayed with us. We were shocked when we heard on the news that nine female health workers had been shot and killed in health centers near Kano. This happened the week we returned. After this I felt disheartened, I started to really worry about the polio eradication program. I doubted whether we would ever see a polio free Nigeria.
A few months later, I was in Abu Dhabi at the Global Vaccine Summit, giving a talk to political, religious and traditional leaders who had come to together to endorse and fund a plan for a polio-free world by 2018.
This plan, along with the amazing work and inspiring stories of all the heroes I met in Nigeria, makes me optimistic. Zainab, she had polio and had to beg her father to allow her to go to school. Zainab now holds an important position at one Sokoto’s top TV stations. Her story is amazing. I think of Aminu, a man who is ready to drag himself across the whole of northern Nigeria to help spread the message of polio vaccination. The guys who were brave enough to march through the streets of Sokoto, calling for change. The para-soccer guys empowered by sport, with a dream that one day para-soccer will become a Paralympic sport. They want it to be Africa’s gift to the world. That’s why I have hope. I’m going to be fighting with these guys, who I see as my brothers and sisters, from now until we succeed in kicking out polio from this world forever.
To find out more about global polio eradication efforts and join the fight, please visit www.endpolionow.org or www.polioeradication.org