Nigerian government commits to completely eradicate polio in 2017

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges and at the  announcement was made during the World Polio Day livestream event in New York City, in total, Rotary gives US$ 40.4 million to end polio worldwide.

Nigeria is one of the beneficiaries of this laudable act by Rotary as they have been given additional US$6.9 million boost to Nigeria to support immunization activities and surveillance spearheaded by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Afghanistan and Pakistan are the remaining countries still having the polio endemic as Nigeria was removed from the list by the WHO. This achievement is reported to be due to the resilience of countless health care workers, traditional leaders, over 400,000 volunteers and the government who managed to turn the programme in Nigeria around by reaching over 45 million children repeatedly with polio vaccines.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently guaranteed that Nigeria will maintain its status as a polio free country.

The President who spoke at the occasion organized to mark  Nigeria’s removal from endemic countries by the World Health Organization WHO in Abuja said his government is committed to completely eradicate the disease in 2017.

President Buhari also revealed that the presidential taskforce on the ailment will be reconstituted so the desired goal of complete eradication can be achieved. In his words, “For 14 consecutive months, Nigeria has not recorded any new case of polio virus. This, as I had been briefed, is the first step towards certification of Nigeria as polio virus free country by WHO in the next two years.

“This achievement, I recall, also resonated at the 70th UN General Assembly when the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, mentioned it. I therefore commend WHO for their consistent steawardship in Global Health Security”, the President said.

“As we celebrate world polio day in a time when we have been removed from the list of polio endemic countries we must remain vigilant and ensure that all children are immunised again polio until Nigeria is certified polio free and indeed the world is certified polio free,” says the Chairman of Rotary’s Nigeria National Polio Plus Committee, Tunji Funsho. “No child is safe from the polio virus until no more polio virus exists on this planet.”

For Ado Muhammad, the head of Nigeria National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Nigeria will need between $155 million in 2016 and $249 million in 2017 to achieve the objective to completely eradicate polio.

The Director-General of WHO, Margaret Chan, has said that the success of Nigeria at eradication of polio was due to the contributions of all relevant agencies. For her, “It is very clear that even though polio transmission in Nigeria has been interrupted, we still have a long road to travel towards its eradication. We must ensure that in the next two years no child is paralysed due to polio.”

“Therefore, there is need for the efforts and investment to continue in order to sustain the gains; to ensure that at the state level, local government areas chairmen are fully involved in supporting polio campaigns; and to ensure timely disbursement of the state’s counterpart funds to guarantee good quality campaigns,” she said.

President Buhari however insists that there will be no complacency, as Nigeria 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.

Rotary is contributing  $26.8 million to African countries to ensure the disease never returns to the continent: Burkina Faso ($1.6 million), Cameroon ($2.7 million), Chad ($2.6 million), Democratic Republic of Congo ($499,579), Equatorial Guinea ($685,000), Kenya ($750,102), Madagascar ($562,820), Mali ($1.5 million), Niger ($3 million), Nigeria ($6.9 million), Somalia ($4.9 million) and South Sudan ($1.5 million).

Outside of Africa, Rotary also announced grants of $6.7 million for polio-endemic Pakistan, $400,000 to Iraq and $5.3 million to India. The remaining $990,542 will support immunization activities and surveillance.

To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion to fight polio. Through 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match two-to-one every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication (up to $35 million a year). Currently, there have been only 41 cases of polio reported in the world in 2015, down from about 350,000 a year when the initiative launched in 1988.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease. It is caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can invade an infected person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis (can’t move parts of the body).

Kemi Ajumobi