WHO to certify Nigeria polio-free in 2017

Nigeria is one step closer to achieving the goal of eradicating polio in 2017, as it has been one year since the last case of polio was reported in the country, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said yesterday. 

Geoffrey Njoku - Media and External Relations, NPHCDA 
The NPHCDA statement, which was signed by Media and External Relations, Geoffrey Njoku, said the last case of polio in Nigeria was reported exactly a year ago, in a 16-months-old boy from Sumaila LGA in Kano State. If all pending laboratory investigations return negative in the next few weeks, Nigeria will officially be taken off the list of polio-endemic countries. 

However, Nigeria will only be certified polio free by WHO in 2017, provided it maintains its zero case status, further strengthens its surveillance system, improves routine immunization and maintains high quality campaigns. Consequently, achieving one year without polio is just one of the hurdles the country needs to surmount before being certified polio free in 2017. As early as 2012, Nigeria, with 122 poliovirus cases, had reported the highest number of polio cases globally and was the polio epicentre of the world. According to the immediate past Minister of State for Health, Engr. Fidelis Nwankwo, said, “Our eyes are on the prize but this is the most critical time in the programme. Because the stakes are so high, we know that the eyes of the world are on us all to deliver and there is no room for complacency until we achieve eradication in 2017. We are far from there yet. 

“We’re really excited by the historic progress that has been made here in Nigeria; however we can’t get distracted by this progress. We are now looking ahead to our next challenge, which is to sustain the momentum on an emergency footing until 2017, with strong government oversight and continued levels of funding, so that Nigeria can hit the three-year mark with no cases and finally eradicate this crippling disease.” 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. 

Government and partners reiterate that it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Polio campaigns will need to continue and reach all children in the country several times a year. While there is polio anywhere in this world, every child is at risk. Surveillance needs to become even more sensitive, so that no virus will be missed. And routine immunization coverage needs to improve significantly, especially in the northern states. Nigeria launched an ‘all-out’ effort, with focused attention, resources and activities on the remaining polio strongholds of the country, particularly the northern states. 

Special approaches were developed in the security compromised areas, including a focus on reaching the internally displaced populations. We recognise that it will only be through strong commitment, coordination underpinned by accountability, that Nigeria will be in a position to stop transmission and sustain the gains through to eradication in 2017. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on July 24, 2015.


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