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Sustaining Polio Eradication Efforts In Nigeria


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently announced that Nigeria has not recorded a single case of poliomyelitis (polio) since July 24, 2014.

According to the organisation, Nigeria has been officially removed from the list of countries where polio is endemic.

“It’s been 14 months since any cases of polio caused by the wild virus have been detected there.

“With Nigeria’s historic achievement, polio remains endemic in only two countries; Afghanistan and Pakistan,’’ it stated in a statement.

Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran, in a statement, congratulated Nigeria, thanking volunteers, health workers and parents across Nigeria for their tireless commitment to ensuring every last child was protected against this devastating disease.

He urged all stakeholders to sustain Nigeria’s polio eradication efforts through the commitment of health workers to immunising children who had not previously been immunised. Warning on the dangers of the disease, WHO describes polio as “a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.

“The virus is transmitted by person- to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle such as contaminated water or food. `

`The virus multiplies in the intestine from where it can invade the nervous system and it can cause paralysis. “Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

“In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio; it can only be prevented by immunisation,’’ the organisation said.

In view of this observation, Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO, advised the Nigerian government to continue with the efforts that got the country off the polio-endemic list.

“The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the polio-endemic list must continue to keep Africa polio-free.

“We must support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they will soon join the polio-endemic free world,’’ she stated.

Determined to sustain the nation’s polio eradication efforts, President, Muhammadu Buhari reaffirmed his administration’s resolve to ensure that Nigeria was finally certified polio- free by 2017.

He said to become permanently polio-free; Nigeria must build on itsachievement of being polio-free for 12 months.

“I want to reaffirm the commitment of the Federal Government to sustain the gains and momentums to enable Nigeria achieve certification by 2017.

“I am therefore inviting all Nigerians to join me in actualising this pledge as experts have cautioned that the progress we have made in the polio eradication efforts is still very fragile.

“There is the risk of gains reversal if we don’t sustain this great effort and allow complacency to set in.

“As you are aware, the fact that we have not had any case of polio for over a year now, does not mean that we are polio-free. “

It is just one of the milestones on the path to being polio-free. I understand that for Nigeria to be certified polio-free, we have to sustain this zero polio case status.

“We also have to strengthen surveillance in order to detect quickly any case of polio anywhere in the country, improve routine immunisation coverage and provide the needed human and material resources,’’ Buhari said.

The president urged state governors to diligently supervise the polio eradication programme in their states and join the Federal Government in ensuring that the required resources were provided and efficiently utilised to achieve the desired result.

“Between now and 2017, we must ensure that we continue to build confidence in our people to present their children and wards for immunisation. “We also need to interface regularly with our local government chairmen to ensure that there is no complacency. “We must make Nigeria polio-free in 2017. We must put all our efforts to achieve this milestone for the sake of our children, future generations and the overall health and well being of the nation,’’ he said.

Appraising Buhari’s statement, Dr Muhammad Ado, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said he believed that Nigeria would be taken off the polio list in 2017 and certified polio-free.

“We remain committed to finding concrete and sharp solutions to overcome the remaining bottlenecks until we achieve eradication in this country.

“If this progress is sustained with no re-infection and surveillance remains strong, Nigeria and the rest of Africa will achieve polio eradication by 2017,’’ he assured Nigerians.

According to Ado, maintaining this zero status involves improving routine immunisation and maintaining high quality campaigns. “

It will take a lot of hard work to remain polio-free as campaigns will need to continue and vaccines will have to reach all children in the country several times a year. `

`We recognise the need to sustain and re-double our efforts to ensure every child is reached,’’ he said.

Health experts, nonetheless, opine that eradication of polio globally would depend primarily on stopping the disease in Pakistan and Afghanistan, insisting that as long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to children everywhere.

But, an analyst, Jennifer Cooke, said that since 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) –an international partnership of government and private institutions –has reduced the number of reported polio cases worldwide by more than 99 percent.

Beyond foreign interventions on the fight against polio, medical experts insist that stakeholders should made concerted efforts to sustain the success of the country in that regard.

According to them, Nigeria has brought the world one major step closer to achieving total polio-eradication globally and it is critical that stakeholders use the opportunity and ensure that future generations are free from polio. (NAN Features).

– By Naomi Sharang

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