‘My mother had to live on the streets to protect me’ -The Standard Health

Rahab Keranga, a polio survivor. (Rose Mukonyo, Standard)

Rahab Keranga, a 52-year-old woman from Kiambu County, walked at 7 months old. It was such a joy for her mother to see her young daughter running and playing with her older siblings.

Several months later, when Rahab reached one and a half years old, she began to become paralyzed and could no longer walk, or even play with her friends and siblings. He was diagnosed with polio.

His mother was devastated; her father believed that Rahab was a curse on the family because no one else in his family suffered from such a disease.

Now a polio vaccination ambassador, Rahab tells Health & Science what she’s been told about her story.

“I needed therapy at least twice a week and my mother, who was pregnant at the time, had to leave her marital home and started living on the streets of Nairobi just to make sure I can attend these therapy sessions,” says Rahab.


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She explains that this was because her mother did not have enough money to transport Gatundu to Nairobi for the weekly therapy sessions and was also seeking to protect her daughter from villagers who believed paralysis was an abomination to her. family.

Rahab contracted polio due to lack of vaccination as, according to her, there was very little or no awareness about polio vaccination.

At that time, going to school was difficult for her because it meant she had to be transported to and from school, and her mother, who was a casual worker, could not take her. Eventually, she joined the Joy Town Special School for the Disabled in Thika.

She says attending a special school taught her that she was not alone and that in order to be accepted by others, she had to love and accept herself. She says this experience made her stronger.

“I always tell people to make sure their children get all their vaccinations according to government guidelines, because it’s not something you can reverse. If a child contracts the polio virus, they will either be paralyzed or die,” says Rahab, who is also the chairperson of the Kiambu County Disability Network.

She adds that she built a house in honor of her mother, making sure she was well fed and all her needs were met. She says she is grateful to her mother for standing up for her when her family and villagers shunned her – to the point of leaving her marital home just to make sure her daughter survived.

According to pediatrician Dr. David Githanga, polio is a neurological disease that affects the nervous system and is caused by three types of viruses, serotypes 1, 2 and 3, which only affect humans.

It is transmitted orally by ingesting water containing human feces from an infected person, although it can also, rarely, be transmitted by respiratory droplets.

Dr Githanga also explains that type 1 polio is responsible for most outbreaks, type 2 has been eradicated and type 3 is more confined to a certain area.

“The vaccine that we administer is bivalent because we are dealing with two types; Type 1 and 3, and they can be alive or killed,” says Dr Githanga.

Live vaccine means there is a live virus that has been attenuated and helps the body produce antibodies against polio without passing the disease to the person, while killed vaccine means it does not contain any live organisms. And is usually administered by injection.

Sometimes there is a vaccine-derived virus that appears when the live polio vaccine changes and causes illness in the person.

In Kenya, although the government has conducted frequent anti-polio campaigns, unvaccinated people have arrived from countries like Somalia and South Sudan, where polio has not yet been eradicated.

According to Dr Githanga, four pillars will contribute to the eradication of polio in the country.

Each child should receive a primary vaccination which includes the BGC and polio vaccine at birth, at 6, 10 and 14 weeks and receive a booster at one and a half years as well as at 5 and 10 years. There should also be effective and active surveillance measures such as water sampling especially at entry points, consider checking a person who has suffered paralysis for no obvious reason to be able to eradicate polio.

The country should carry out very high-quality vaccination efforts, such as additional vaccination activities.

This is not a routine vaccination, but a campaign where the government goes from house to house announcing that it is running a campaign against polio, targeting people who may not have been vaccinated, like those in refugee camps.

Furthermore, there should be a containment strategy such that when a person is vaccinated, the government withdraws the live polio vaccine and starts offering the killed polio vaccine to prevent cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.

Dr Githanga adds that Kenya’s proposed polio vaccination is safe and effective, urging parents to ensure that all children receive it in order to eradicate polio from the country.

“Babies are born without immunity and will only get it from their mother, infection or vaccines. It is therefore important to ensure that they are all vaccinated against polio. »

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Gn Health

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