Nigeria on right track to stop polio transmission – UNICEF

By: Chioma Umeha

Ahead of the World Polio Day, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said weekend that Nigeria is on the right track to stop polio transmission as it has recorded 52 per cent drop in polio cases, 63 per cent reduction in vaccine rejection Priyanka Khanna, Communication Specialist, Media, the UNICEF Nigeria Country Office who said this in a statement made available to Daily Newswatch, noted that polio is on the decline many states in the country. Khanna said: “In Nigeria, the number of States with ongoing circulation of the virus is down from 11 during the same time last year to nine.” 

The Communication Specialist added that Borno, Yobe and Kano account for 72 per cent of all polio cases in the country so far this year, while three per cent of LGAs were infected with polio virus, while circulating polio genetic clusters dropped from eight to two per cent. Khanna also said that no Wild Polio Virus Type 3 case has been detected in the country so far this year, adding that the last case occurred 11 months ago. However, he insisted that ending polio is a critical step toward improving the lives of Nigeria’s most vulnerable children. Khanna, noted that investing in reaching all children with the polio vaccine leads the way to reaching them with other life-saving health care interventions. 

Khanna also said that the goal is to ensure that no child anywhere in the country will have to suffer from the debilitating disease. The Communication Specialist further insisted that strengthening routine immunization is a key component of the broader polio eradication programme. This is even as he disclosed that planning is underway to ensure the polio programme’s knowledge and infrastructure is effectively transferred to benefit other national, regional and global health priorities. Khanna stated that the next six months that is the traditional “low season” for polio is critical to the efforts of countries to change history and end polio. Commenting on polio eradication across the world, he said: “We’re closer than ever to ridding the world of this devastating disease. We can end polio forever.” 

World Polio Day was established by Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. Use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of the oral poliovirus, developed by Albert Sabin, led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988. Since then, GPEI has reduced polio worldwide by 99 per cent. However, in 2012, transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus continued in three countries: Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In April 2012, the World Health Assembly declared the completion of polio eradication a programmatic emergency for global public health. 

Khanna maintained: “We need to end polio – it is critical to improving the lives of Nigeria’s most vulnerable children, and it is within our reach, adding ‘a child we reach with polio vaccine is a child we can reach with other vaccines, vitamins and health care. It is time to end polio forever. We can make history and end polio forever. This World Polio Day, we’re closer than ever.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 24,  2013.


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