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Africa records no wild polio virus since 2017 – WHO


• Nigeria steps up efforts for certification


ABUJA – The World Health Organization has applauded Africa for being free of the deadly wild polio virus in two years, covering 2017 and 2018.

In a statement on Wednesday, the organization urged all nations on the continent to work harmoniously to secure certification of being free from the disease by end of 2019 or early 2020.

Nigeria is the only country in Africa with the virus, alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The message, signed by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) nearly 30 years ago, new cases of polio had dropped by more than 99.9 percent – from 350,000 cases every year in more than 125 affected countries, to 22 wild polio cases in 2017 in two affected countries.

“The African Region has made tremendous progress towards polio eradication. As late as 2012, the Region accounted for more than half of the global polio burden, but polio cases have dropped steadily from 128 cases in 2012, to 4 cases in 2016 to 0 cases in 2017 and 2018. The African Region has now reached an important milestone towards eradication – it has been more than two years since the last case of wild poliovirus. I applaud the excellent efforts of governments, polio eradication partners, communities, parents and health workers in achieving this magnificent milestone.

“However, this is no time to be complacent. Until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of outbreaks. As a Region, Africa can only be certified to have eradicated polio if three years have passed without any confirmed wild poliovirus, and if polio surveillance (closely looking out for polio cases) has been maintained at the level required for certification. If no new case is confirmed, and surveillance is quickly strengthened, the African Region can be certified to have eradicated polio by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

“As a Region, our surveillance efforts need to be further strengthened. A number of countries have sub-optimal surveillance, in both secure and insecure areas. It would be a disaster if we failed to be certified because of poor surveillance performance. I urge all countries – whether they have had a case of polio or not – to recommit to strengthen surveillance urgently…

“We are close to ending polio. I call on all countries to work together to ensure that this becomes a reality, and the African Region is declared to have eradicated polio by end 2019 or early 2020. Let us all be part of that historical achievement.”

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government said it was stepping up to ensure it secure polio-free certification after successfully ensuring no case of the wild polio was recorded in the nation in 25 months.

In a release made available to Nigeria Health Online on Wednesday, signed by Mr Sa’adu Salahu, Head of the Public Relations Unit of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency for the Executive Director of the agency, the government said since 1989 to date, there had been a 99.9 percent reduction of polio cases across the world.

The government said with continued commitment, collaboration and partnership, polio eradication was within reach.

“Recently, there has been isolation and reporting of type 2 strains largely from environmental samples. Although, these are not wild polio cases, they present with similar symptoms. They are a result of several years of low Routine Immunization (RI) coverage and consequently, insufficient population immunity to type 2 virus. This led to intensive outbreak response campaigns in two phases which commenced in May and
September/October 2018. To further boost population immunity, the Federal Government and Development partners have scheduled a Fractional Injectable Polio Vaccine (fIPV) campaign across 92 targeted LGAs in November 2018.

“It is also gratifying to note the current political commitment towards vaccine procurement and strengthening RI in the country. The Nigeria/GAVI joint investment of over $3Billion in support of RI and health system strengthening is an unprecedented and commendable development, which has huge potential towards improving immunization and primary health care quality over the next ten years.

“Furthermore, the recent resolution of the Nigeria Governors Forum to ensure increased funding for Primary Health Care, Including Immunization is yet another laudable effort of the political leaders in the country.

“The 2018 World Polio Day will therefore afford the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, donors, development partners and other stakeholders the opportunity to further sensitize our people, especially the political leaders on the need for sustained RI, polio supplemental immunization activities as well as solicit for the support of parents and care givers. Our children, require parents and care givers to demand on their behalf, effective vaccines given free of charge through routine and supplemental means. This is a fundamental basic right of all our children,” the government stated.

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