NIGERIA will today, mark two years without a case of polio. This is an important milestone for the polio eradication initiative and a major step towards polio-free certification for the country in 2017.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative, Jean Gough, has accordingly commended Nigeria for the feat recorded on eradication of polio in the country.
Gough said achieving a polio-free Africa would bring closer than ever to a polio-free world, warning that the success should not be taken for granted.
He said: “We must continue to work together with all partners in particular with the traditional institutions at all levels to ensure we reach every child so we can relegate this paralysing disease to history forever.”
When Nigeria has achieved three years without a case of polio, it would officially be declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Communication Specialist Media and Advocacy with UNICEF Nigeria Country Office, UN House, Abuja, Mr Akin Jimoh, said as long as polio exists anywhere, it poses a threat everywhere.
In a statement he issued on Sunday in Abuja, Jimoh said it was essential that Nigeria and the global community continue to vaccinate children against polio, adding that intensive efforts to vaccinate every child, particularly across Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan and any high-risk or insecure areas were critical.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who led the country’s Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, had noted that the feat was a historic moment that has brought Africa and the world the closest it has ever been to eradicating this devastating disease.
He said: “But our job is not yet done. We must protect the gains we have made and stay on course to tackle the challenges that remain in eliminating polio for good.”
He further added that the Federal Government would “continue to provide the needed oversight and resources to achieve polio eradication by 2017.”
Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, assured Nigerians that the Federal Government was committed to building resilience by “getting people out of their comfort zones to further enhance the quality of polio campaigns, reach children in difficult areas and continue to improve routine immunisation.”
Also, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Ado Muhammad, affirmed that efforts were ongoing to close the remaining surveillance gaps in the programme, including increasing environmental surveillance sites and community informants across the country.
He said: “Investments to end polio across the African region and around the world are developing a lasting infrastructure and knowledge base that will help to improve the delivery of basic healthcare services and other life-saving vaccines, especially to people living in poor and hard to reach areas”.
All partners stressed the need for continued commitment from governments, civil society and donors to finish the job, for Nigeria, for Africa and for children everywhere.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners leading the effort to eradicate polio applauded the commitment of tens of thousands of people, including Nigerian officials at all levels, UN and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) partners, health workers, traditional, community leaders and volunteers from all sections of the country in keeping polio out of Nigeria for the past two years.
Jimoh, further noted that the GPEI partners emphasised that in order to sustain gains made against polio, Nigeria and the broader African regions must improve and sustain political and financial commitment at all levels of government.
“They must also improve their surveillance systems so that in the event of a case of polio, rapid action can be taken to prevent any spread of the disease,” he said.