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 last case of polio in Nigeria was reported exactly a year today 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 polio virus cases, has reported the highest number of polio cases globally and the polio epicenter of the world. As 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 deliver and there is no room form complacency until we achieve eradication in 2017. We are far from there yet."
"We are 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 on cases, and finally eradication this crippling disease."
If this progress is sustained with no re-infection and surveillance remains strong, Nigeria and 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 recognize 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.
"Today we are looking forward to 2017. We remain committed to finding concrete and sharp solutions to overcome the remaining bottlenecks until we achieve eradication in this country. We recognize the need to sustain and re-double our efforts to ensure every child is reached", declared Dr.Ado J.G. Muhammed, the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)
As Nigeria marks one year without a case of polio and embarks on the road to certification, it is important to pay tribute to the hundreds of thoughts of vaccinators, community mobilizers, Traditional and Religious leaders, parents and caregivers who have supported polio eradication efforts for more than a decade, despite the challenges Nigeria's achievement in stopping polio will save hundreds of thousands of children from lifelong paralysis or death each year. Polio efforts have contributed substantively to improving the health system including disease surveillance, routine immunization and maternal and child health.
"Today is an important health milestone for Nigerians. But now we call all Nigerians -health workers, political traditional religious and community leaders and communities themselves to help us to sustain the gains made towards polio eradication by 2017, when Nigeria will be certified polio-free by WHO. Let us not leave any stone unturned until we achieve this collective goal for our country. Working together we can do better", Dr.Ado Muhammed said.
For further enquiries:
The Executive Director,
Dr.Ado J.G. Muhammad
National Primary Health Care Development Agency