Daniel Bangura

It was a hilly journey, very hilly, through thick rainforest and over many potholes to the Toli Chiefdom in eastern Sierra Leone. At one point, the vehicle that Daniel Bangura, 35, was riding in got stuck in thick mud and a group of onlookers had to help push it free. He remembers a checkpoint guard saying “Good luck! A vehicle has never passed through this route.”

Bangura is an assistant project coordinator for a collaboration between the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and The Task Force’s Polio Eradication Surge Capacity Team. In this role, he works with the three agencies to support vaccine-derived poliovirus surveillance and response in Sierra Leone.

The mining district where Bangura was that day borders Guinea and welcomes many nomadic communities so polio vaccination is essential to prevent widespread transmission as people flow throughout the district.


Tempted to turn back many times during their bumpy journey, Bangura and his team members carried on because they understood the need to provide supportive supervision to vaccination teams fighting a polio outbreak and to conduct activities such as replenishing vaccine supplies, surveying for active polio cases, and gaining local leader support.

“When we finally reached Kondewakoro, the headquarter town of Toli, it was this beautiful town sitting at the base of a huge rock,” said Bangura. “The polio monitors went from household to household checking children’s fingers for the polio vaccination purple nail mark, and we were able to educate local leaders about polio, its impact, and the new, safer oral polio vaccine.”

The team that Bangura leads includes 70 field epidemiology training program (FETP) graduates deployed by AFENET, in partnership with the CDC, to conduct surveillance of cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), weakness or paralysis of the muscles in face, arms or legs.

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AFP indicates the probable presence of poliovirus, so this public health surveillance technique is used to detect, investigate, and isolate poliovirus in stool specimens of children with suspected AFP.

“I love being a leader and coordinating with these graduates on a common goal: polio eradication,” he said. “I get so much fulfillment out of supporting them and being empathetic to the challenges they face in their work to conduct surveillance for AFP and other vaccine preventable diseases. We come together as a family when there are challenges.”

Although the focus is polio eradication, Bangura considers the wellbeing of his team a priority as well. Even in little details like making sure his team has adequate rain gear for working during the rainy season, Bangura is ready to support them.

“We all have a responsibility to do what we can in one way or another,” said Bangura, who received a Master of Science degree in Global Health Delivery at the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda.

“When I learned global health skills in my studies, I knew I had a responsibility to bring those skills back to Sierra Leone and put them into practice.”

Bangura says that his inspiration comes from “the people in the local communities who are galvanizing communities and encouraging others to take vaccines in this COVID-19 era where vaccination hesitancy, misinformation and conspiracy theories have skyrocketed.”

The Polio Eradication Surge Capacity Team provides strategic and operational support for polio outbreak response and vaccine campaigns through technical support by senior epidemiologists. The Task Force’s Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) supports FETPs and regional networks like AFENET to train public health workers to respond to polio and other disease outbreaks.

All photos and video courtesy of Daniel Bangura.

All photos and video courtesy of Daniel Bangura.

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