While most countries around the world successfully eradicated polio, Nigeria lagged behind, with wild polio cases continuing to exist until year 2016. Hence UNICEF’s initiative to maintain and enhance routine immunization coverage remains important, especially in Northern parts of Nigeria. In this vein, UNICEF implemented an intervention that involved a large network of Volunteer Community Mobilizers (VCM). VCMs are “agents of change,” who are predominantly females hired from local settlements to conduct house-to-house awareness-raising activities on immunization and basic health and hygiene practices. The VCMs also accompanied vaccination teams during Immunization Plus Days to encourage participation by eligible households. Additionally, VCMs coordinated with community influencers, such as religious leaders and traditional community leaders, to tackle existing misconceptions about immunization and resolve any religious and social barriers.
C4ED worked with UNICEF to conduct an impact evaluation of the VCM Network. The purpose of this evaluation was to examine the causal impact of the intervention on contributing to polio eradication in Northern Nigeria and on primary health and behavioral outcomes. The impact evaluation made use of a mixed method approach to determine the role of the VCM network in increasing immunization coverage, reducing the number of missed children during vaccination campaigns, and dissolving social barriers.
The quantitative study covered a sample of 1,600 households with children under five residing in four Northern states and 160 community leaders. The qualitative exercise complemented the quantitative by conducting focus group discussions and key informant interviews with the VCMs, community leaders, and stakeholders from UNICEF. The evaluation showed a positive and significant impact of the program on enhancing routine vaccination and use of health facilities. C4ED further derived policy and practical implications for future interventions.