By: CHIOMA UMEHA
Vaccination key to polio-free Nigeria, 2014 – Rotary Rotary international in Nigeria has urged Nigerians to support efforts towards raising awareness on polio and embrace the polio vaccination as it is the surest way to help the nation achieve its 2014 total polio eradication goal and join the league of polio-free countries for children, including India and America.
Chairman, Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee (NNPPC), Dr Tunji Funso who made this call in Lagos said, “While the whole world has recorded tremendous success in the fight against polio from the 125 endemic countries as at 1988, Nigeria alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan currently remain the three polio endemic countries but with consistent vaccination, the world would soon be free of polio just like it did with small pox. Funso who is also the Past District Governor of Rotary further observed that the country currently requires one billion dosage of vaccine annually to eradicate the disease. He added that NNPC is striving to raise $500million for the total eradication of polio in Nigeria alone. Speaking at the first Rotary Nigeria Bike-a-Thon, a charity cycling event organized in Lekki axis of Lagos last Saturday to mark the World Polio Day, Dr Funso expressed optimism on the drive towards a polio-free Nigeria and the world, reasoning that there is progress so far in the eradication of the disease. He said: “There is cause for celebration because as at 1988, 1000 children get infected daily by polio. Today, only three countries are left and with just about one case of polio every two days.
“As at October 4, Nigeria has only one confirmed circulating vaccine derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) in one state compared to five cases in two states same period in 2012. Also, there were 49 cases of confirmed WPV in 9 states compared to 101 cases in 11 states same period 2012,” he added. According to him, the achievement was possible due to the relentless efforts of rotary international in driving the largest public private partnership in history by advocacy using its over 1.2 million member volunteers around the world. According to Funso, his organisation collaborates with international governments, World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Bill and Melinda Gates foundation who have been providing financial, technical and human resources to do the job by advocating, raising funds and actively participate in immunizing children. The NNPPC boss, noted that 99 per cent success has been recorded so far in the fight against polio but insisted that only 100 per cent breakthrough will make both Nigeria and the whole world safe for children below the age of five who are key targets of the deadly virus.
“We are 99 per cent on our way to eradicating polio but as every long distance runner knows it is that last mile that is most difficult and requires bringing out not only physical resources but mental as well.” He said, “The World Polio Day is so designated to focus on the polio disease which until recently was a scourge affecting children all over the world.” “This is partly why this Rotary Bike-a-Thon took took place in Lagos. To remind all and people in the southern part of the country that polio is still with us and we need to get the job of polio eradication done by working to end polio now.” The Bike-a-Thon event was a one-day fun cycling ride organised to generate interest, increase awareness and raise funds for activities towards total eradication of polio disease which is endemic in the country, especially in the North. Nollywood star actress and Rotary Polio Ambassador, Funke Akndele led other participants at the event joining other Rotary global icons around the world, including Bill Gates, Desmond Tutu, Isabella Fontana, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and many others in creating awareness for polio using fun in a practical way.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 24, 2013.