Media CenterCRS Receives Hero Award in Fight Against Polio in Nigeria

Photo by David Snyder for CRS

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Jennifer Lazuta
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
+221 78 621 98 75

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND, Nov. 3, 2022 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS), in partnership with other nonprofits, through its work as part of the CORE Group Polio Project (CGPP) Nigeria, has been named as a recipient of the 2022 Polio Heroes Award. The recognition comes two years after Nigeria became the last country in Africa to be certified by the Africa Regional Certification Commission.

Wild Polio Virus Type 1 has been responsible for paralysis in thousands of children across the world before the advent of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988.

“Overall, in Nigeria, the general feeling is that of elation, accomplishment and reward,” said Dr. Samuel Usman, who has been serving as the Secretariat Director of CGPP Nigeria since its inception in 2013. “The overall feeling is that this huge work requiring huge resources has culminated in being declared free of the Wild Polio Virus.”

CGPP Nigeria contributes to polio eradication by increasing population immunity and enhancing surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis. Community volunteers help reduce misinformation, non-compliance and vaccine rejection in hard-to-reach and insecure areas of northern Nigeria.

CGPP Nigeria employs a communication model that emphasizes the need to counter suspicion and address myths and misunderstandings by convening community dialogs and compound meetings. Both offer safe spaces for open discussion primarily aimed at addressing non-compliance. Religious leaders, led by his Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, have been integral in changing the attitude toward immunizations and vaccinations. Dr. Usman said that sometimes, prominent leaders will publicly take the vaccine drop in their mouth to show the community that the drops are safe.

Dr. Usman says that the declaration of eradication is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the teams.

“The volunteer community mobilizers who go house-to-house before, during, and after supplementary immunization activities and outbreaks to raise awareness and dispel rumors and misconceptions that hinder acceptance of the Oral Polio Vaccine are the real heroes of this all,” he said.

Thanks to these efforts, there has been a consistent reduction in the number of missed children and consistent improvement in polio immunization uptake in the communities in Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Borno and Yobe states.

Dr. Usman said that this award shows that CGPP’s Secretariat Model really works, and yet the work must go on. Outbreaks of circulating variant poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) happen because of low immunization coverage in certain areas due to vaccine resistance and access challenges.

“General skepticism around vaccines increases when people are told that a polio outbreak is caused by the vaccine itself,” said Dr. Usman in a Devex article.

Since the declaration of eradication on August 25, 2020, CRS and its partners’ continued efforts to fight cVDPV2. Supporting community-based activities designed to strengthen polio immunizations and other routine immunizations, human and animal disease surveillance and outbreak response, have been recognized by Nigeria's Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Authority in Nigeria.

“We all must continue to put in our best to ensure each child is vaccinated and that we track every eligible child to ensure they get oral polio vaccine and inactivated polio vaccine, thereby increasing coverage in our focal settlements, wards, local government areas, and states,” he said. “This way, we will continue to interrupt the ongoing outbreak of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus.”

The CGGP works in five states in Nigeria through six community-based organizations — Archdiocesan Catholic Healthcare Initiative, Community Support and Development Initiative, Family Health and Youth Empowerment, Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria, WAKA Rural Development Initiative and Royal Heritage Healthcare Foundation — supported by three international NGOs — Catholic Relief Services, International Medical Corps, and Save the Children. World Vision US serves as the prime recipient of the grant and coordinates the global program.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding. For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Regional Communications Officer for Central Africa

Jennifer Lazuta
November 3, 2022

Based in Dakar, Senegal

Jen Lazuta is the Regional Communications Officer for the Central Africa region at Catholic Relief Services. She is the primary contact for media, proactively linking journalists with compelling stories about CRS’ work. Jen has traveled extensively throughout the region, reporting stories on various topics, including health, peacebuilding,...More