Three years after the last polio outbreak in the country, Nigeria is close to attaining its polio-free certification in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) specifications. This progress is the result of sustained efforts to eradicate the endemic disease in the region. Just recently, the Rotary International donated $5.7 million to support the fight against polio in Nigeria.
Till date, Nigeria remains the only African country that is not certified polio-free, and one of the three countries in the world still on the polio-endemic list, alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nigeria, however, was earlier removed from the list in September 2015 after 14 months as a polio-free community as observed by the WHO. The country maintained the status for two years as no new cases of wild poliovirus (WPV) was detected. Aiming for certification in the third year, the 2016 polio outbreaks in the country caused a major setback.
Since then, the region has seen joint efforts in the fight against polio, including domestic and international financing, the commitment of thousands of health workers, new strategies for effective immunization system to ensure total coverage, reaching children who had not previously been immunized due to the persistent insurgency in the country. These efforts have seen huge success as the country has not reported any case of WPV for three years now. By August, the country will officially complete WHO’s polio-free period that confirms certification.
Among other bodies, Rotary International is a major supporter in the struggle to eradicate the polio epidemic. Its most recent donation which was awarded on Thursday, April 11 2019, the international body called on other partners to support Nigeria on its efforts to become polio-free country. During the event in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole commended Rotary International for the donation which was handed over to UNICEF Country Representative Nigeria Dr Pernille Ironside
Citing that there is a great improvement on the coverage of immunization, the Minister stated that Nigeria is on its last lap to end polio. He commended National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) for routine immunization in the country, noting that the most important thing is that all children that were previously inaccessible in the north-east must access vaccinations before the certification.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman Polio Plus Committee, Rotary international, Dr. Tunji Funsho, said that polio eradication is an expensive venture that requires everybody to be on board.
“This donation would inspire other partners to come on board and support the Nigeria government, we in polio plus committee were reaching more and more children, more and more areas that are hitherto not accessible particularly with the support of the Military.
Speaking, UNICEF Deputy Country Representatives Nigeria, Dr Pernille Ironside said that the donation was to complement government effort on polio eradication in Nigeria. She said they are so interested to ensure that Nigeria is certified as a polio-free country, being the most populous country in Africa, “If Nigeria succeeds other African Countries would succeed.” She said.
Polio mainly affects children under five years of age. While there is no cure for the disease, it can be prevented: the polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.