Skip to main content

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

By Misbahu Lawan Didi, Special to CNN
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1428 GMT (2228 HKT)
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 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
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1819 GMT (0219 HKT)
As a woman whose parents had cancer, I have quite a few things to say about dying with dignity.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1304 GMT (2104 HKT)
David Gergen says he'll have a special eye on a few particular races in Tuesday's midterms that may tell us about our long-term future.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
What's behind the uptick in clown sightings? And why the fascination with them? It could be about the economy.
October 31, 2014 -- Updated 1301 GMT (2101 HKT)
Midterm elections don't usually have the same excitement as presidential elections. That should change, writes Sally Kohn.
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
ADVERTISEMENT