It is indeed a thing of joy that Nigeria finally got delisted from the list of polio endemic countries. There was elation all over the country when President Muhammadu Buhari received the country’s new status from the World Health Organisation, WHO. Two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan are still on the list.
With Nigeria’s new standing, it means that new cases of the dreaded poliovirus were not reported in the last one year, even though it is not yet Uhuru since its clean bill of health will only be realisable in 2017. However speaking before handing over the status report to President Buhari, WHO’s regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, who represented Director General of the organisation, Dr. Margaret Chan, congratulated the country for being delisted, but warned that the road to final eradication of the virus was long and tortuous.
According to her, there was no room for complacency; therefore it was necessary that the tempo to full eradication of the disease be sustained to ensure that no child was paralysed by polio in the next two years.
In fact, we join in the current nationwide celebration as it is incontestable that poliovirus has crippled several children and even caused the death of many others. Considering the statistics and the huge success that has been recorded in an effort to eradicate polio, then there is cause to merry. Measured against other equally difficult health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, the polio fight is certainly a great achievement.
For instance, in 1988, there was a staggering figure of 530,000 wild poliovirus cases and by 2011 it fell to 650 and in 2012 only 205 cases were recorded. Now, there are no reported or known cases of polio in the country. The successes recorded can be attributed in part to the relentless efforts of partners, religious, community leaders and other categories of health workers. Hence, we join in Mr President’s optimism that his administration will sustain the current momentum aimed at totally eradicating poliovirus in the country.
Government, according to President Buhari will provide the needed funding for operations and procurement of vaccines as well as reintroduce the presidential task force in order to provide the political direction. Buhari said, “I want to assure you that there will be no complacency, as we will maintain and improve on our surveillance system as well as raise the childhood population immunity against the polio virus to avoid any spread of the disease.” Continuing he said, “The federal government will sustain the current momentum and we shall continue to regard this campaign as an emergency until we are declared polio free in the next two years,” he further reiterated.
We expect him to walk this talk. This is not only by directing the Ministry of Finance to provide funds for the basic healthcare in next year’s budget, and review the national healthcare policy to provide for universal health coverage for all, but by removing every bureaucratic bottleneck that could jeopardise the successful implementation of this programme.
W urge him to ensure that the new presidential taskforce on polio eradication should comprise of eminent Nigerians with professionals and selfless public servants from the Ministry of Health as members. The committee should be domiciled in the Presidency and closely supervised by the President himself if we must do things differently and achieve the desired milestone in 2017. Instructively, this development is critical to making sure that funds appropriated for the exercise are judiciously used for the procurement of the right vaccines as well as paying what is due to the field officers. The ad-hoc staff have complained overtime of being short changed by government officials.
Now that Nigeria aims to achieve this feat in two years, we enjoin our partners worldwide to help sustain the current accomplishment by sensitising the public continually, especially the rural communities, hard-to-reach and insecure areas, like Boko Haram prone areas, etc, on the need for the maintaining the of vaccination of children irrespective of their previous immunisation status.
We also appeal to governments at all levels, traditional and religious leaders, as well as the private sector to redouble their efforts to ensure Nigeria gets full certification in 2017.
We are closer than ever before to ending polio, but the job is not yet finished, at least two more years to go for Nigeria to be certified polio-free by the World Health Organisation, WHO, so let us work hard to achieve it.

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