The place was Arochukwu local government council hall, while the date was 11 December, 2017. There, officials of the state office of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, and that of the state office of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, had organised a one-day sensitisation campaign talk in the area aimed at sensitising the people of the LGA, drawn from Arochukwu, Abam, Ihechiowa, Isu and Ututu clans that make up the LGA. Such people include community leaders, religious leaders, school teachers, some selected LGEA officials, as well as other invited members of the public.
Those concerned had gathered at the council hall that day, and the sensitisation talk began well behind the scheduled time of 11am. Before the talk began, however, the state director of the NOA, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Uduma, represented by Mr Goddy Onwuchekwa, had addressed the audience during which time he allowed those in his entourage (and who included Chukwudi Ukpabi, State Assistant Health Educator from the State Primary Health Care Agency; Elder Gabriel Kalu Ojeka, Chief Orientation and Mobilisation Officer, NOA, Arochukwu; Mrs Chiabuto Ezioma, UNICEF Desk Officer, Ministry of Education, Umuahia; Mrs Promise Onyendilefu, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs Ngozi Uko of NOA, Abia State, and Mr Chidiebere Bishmark of the same agency, NOA)to greet the people after being introduced to them
After introducing his team, Mr Onwuchekwa ushered in the State Asst Health Educator, Mr Ukpabi, who then spoke to the audience on the apathy shown in the state to the vaccinations and immunisations since the 28 September 2017 incident where it was alleged that soldiers had forced monkey pox vaccines on school children in the South-East zone of the country, and that panic caused by the rumours had been devastating since then since parents no longer take their children for immunization, and explained the dangers in the act – to our children in the future.
He explained that the panic started when soldiers of the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army were carrying out their routine medical services in September this year in Nnewi and which had coincided with Operation Python Dance II the army had carried out in the zone that time – when there was a problem between IPOB and the Nigerian Army in Umuahia and other parts of the South-East and South-South zones of the country.
He continued that since after that unsubstantiated rumour that soldiers were forcing monkeypox vaccination on the people of the South-East zone, the people no longer present their children for immunisation, just as the Maternal and Child Health Week carried out about two weeks ago had not succeeded because of the apathy occasioned by that deadly rumour, and called for a change of attitude in this regard in the future interest of our children.
He encouraged parents to accept immunisation of their children again and save such children from life-threatening but ‘immunisable’ diseases. He explained that soldiers have never embarked on any immunisation of children in Nigeria in the past as to force monkeypox vaccinations on the people of the South-East zone in particular and other zones in general.
Mr Ukpabi described immunisation as one of the rights of children anywhere in the world, and that any child who is denied immunisation and who eventually develops one or more of the ‘immunisable’ diseases could sue their parents when grown up. After the health education talk, there was questions-and-answer session, during which time nine questions were thrown at the health educator who had gone ahead to answer those questions professionally.
Just after that, the electoral officer for Arochukwu LGA, Mr Christian Okwara, addressed the audience during which time he had addressed the need for those of voting age and who had not obtained their voter’s card to try and do so. He went ahead to enumerate the categories of those qualified to do so. He disclosed that the exercise was continuous and on-going for such people, going further to enumerate the benefits of obtaining one’s voter’s card, and which included the entitlement to vote and for identification purposes.
Elder Nwankwo O Ogbonnaya, the Aro LGA Immunisation Officer, also spoke and enjoined nursing mothers and women of child-bearing ages of between eight and forty-nine years should also ensure full vaccination against tetanus toxoid – that confers life immunity on those who complete the doses.
At the end of the exercise, each of those who participated in the NOA, UNICEF sensitisation campaign/talk was given five hundred naira only, one bottle of malt and one piece of sausage roll.