Skip to main content

Polio has not stopped me, I am determined to stop polio

By Misbahu Lawan Didi, Special to CNN
updated 10:28 AM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
Nigerian para-soccers hold a game outside Lagos, Nigeria.
Nigerian para-soccers hold a game outside Lagos, Nigeria.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Misbahu Lawan Didi grew up in Kano state and contracted polio at age 3
  • Nigeria reported 223 cases of polio last year
  • Didi writes he founded para-soccer in Nigeria and that he always dreamed of playing soccer

Editor's note: Misbahu Lawan Didi is the national chairman of the Association of Polio Survivors of Nigeria. He lives with the effects of polio, getting around on a board with wheels. He is also the founder of para-soccer, for people with disabilities in Nigeria.
Earlier this year, nine polio vaccinators were shot in the city of Kano. Didi shares his perspective on eradicating the disease in Nigeria.

Nigeria (CNN) -- As a polio survivor, World Polio Day is more than a date on the calendar -- it's a reminder that we can and must end this crippling disease.

I grew up in the Kano state of Nigeria and contracted polio at age 3. This disease often causes paralysis and left me mostly paralyzed and unable to walk. My brothers had to help me move when we traveled long distances; even traveling to and from school was difficult.

Living with polio was not easy when I was younger, but I have found ways to cope and lead an active life. And that has given me a lot of strength. For example, I was very interested in soccer when I was young, and I later went on to found para-soccer, a nationally-recognized soccer-style game for people with disabilities in Nigeria.

Why polio hasn't gone away yet

Polio rises from the grave
Polio vaccination workers under attack
Treating polio in Afghanistan
Polio aid workers killed in Pakistan

While polio has not stopped me, I am determined to stop polio.

Children today shouldn't have to go through what I've been through -- especially when a few drops of the polio vaccine can protect them from the disease.

I have committed myself to raising awareness and educating people not just about polio, but about the importance of vaccinations. In fact, to mark World Polio Day in Nigeria, more than 300 polio survivors are actively participating in sporting activities across the country. On an ongoing basis, more than 1,000 survivors are actively campaigning for polio eradication in communities.

Empowering people affected by polio will strengthen our campaign against the disease and help spread the message that vaccinating our children is the only way to prevent them from similar fates.

At the U.N., money backs up vow to eradicate polio by 2015

Nigeria is the only polio endemic country in Africa and one of only three remaining countries (the others are Afghanistan and Pakistan) that have not been able to stop the transmission of the disease, according to the World Health Organization. If we fail to end polio in these countries, all other countries are at risk. This contagious disease can be imported, paralyzing children in countries that thought they were done with polio. A recent outbreak in the Horn of Africa is a reminder that we must finish the job.

In my country, we must make sure more children are vaccinated and overall immunity is higher, especially in the northern states. Every child that does not get polio drops breaks the circle of protection and exposes him or her and others to contracting the virus.

Challenges still exist in Nigeria, especially in reaching children in some communities where security is an issue, like Kano, Borno and Yobe. We are helping to fix this by ensuring local ownership by the government and communities themselves.

The good news is that we have made progress against polio in Nigeria and around the world. In Nigeria, the government, partners, and survivors are working hard, and polio cases are down right now compared to this time last year. Globally, polio cases have been reduced by more than 99 percent in the past 25 years.

Opinion: Don't fall at the finish line in the race to eradicate polio

Thanks to a worldwide effort of governments and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the United Nations, the number of polio cases has dropped from 350,000 a year in 1988 to just 223 last year, and the number of countries where polio is transmitted has dropped from 125 to 3, according to the eradication initiative. I look forward to the day Nigeria overcomes the devastation of polio and joins the list of polio-free countries.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has developed a plan to end polio for good; now is the time for all of us to support this effort, educate our communities, and make sure our children are vaccinated.

On World Polio Day, my wish is that one day we end polio in Nigeria and in the world. I made my dream of playing soccer come true, and I believe we can make this one come true, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Misbahu Lawan Didi.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT