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Polio:  Some areas remain inaccessible to vaccinators in Nigeria – WHO

  • Says surveillance among nations declining

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti
WHO Regional Director for Africa

Defeating polio in Nigeria will require more tasks from the country, as some communities in the nation remain inaccessible to health workers, the World Health Organization, WHO, has said.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, said in a message made available to Nigeria Health Online on Tuesday to commemorate this year World Polio Day that the organization expects to bid the virus farewell by 2019.

While appreciating the effort of countries in the Lake Chad in supporting Nigeria’s vaccination exercise, including keeping the vigil on movement of people and revving the fight against terrorists group in the northeast, WHO said “there are some areas that have remained inaccessible to polio vaccination   and   surveillance   teams   due   to   insecurity;   and   there   is   a   possibility   that transmission may not have been interrupted.”

The organization said there is no time to be complacent, and that until polio is eradicated, all countries remain at risk of its outbreak.

It argued that 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 had 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,” it said.

Declining surveillance is not only in Nigeria, WHO pointed out that a number of countries have sub-optimal surveillance, in both secure and insecure areas. It said it would be a disaster if the Africa region fails to be certified polio-free because of poor surveillance performance.

WHO Regional Director emphasized that a polio case in any country is a case in all of the world, the reason she urged all countries – whether they have had a case of polio or not – to recommit to strengthen surveillance urgently.

Recall that Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, are the only nations that have stopped the world from being polio-free.

WHO said when new polio cases were recorded in Nigeria, it quickly convened a meeting of the ministers of Health of Nigeria and its Lake Chad neighbours, Cameroon,   the   Central African Republic, Chad and Niger.  These governments declared the polio outbreak in Nigeria a public health emergency of the sub-region and took quick, decisive action to vaccinate children.

“In an example of best practice, political and community leaders were engaged to ensure the success of   the   largest   ever   polio   campaign   in Africa.   Over   190 ,000   polio   vaccinators   simultaneously immunized more than 116 million children under five in 13 countries in a coordinated effort in West and Central Africa. Volunteers and health workers travelled on foot or bicycle, working up to 12 hours a day, often in soaring temperatures of over 40.

“This averted new cases of wild poliovirus, and the African Region has now reached an important milestone towards eradication – a year has passed since the last case of wild poliovirus in Nigeria,” it said.

The agency stated that it joined millions others across the globe to galvanize support to end polio, which it described as incurable but completely vaccine preventable disease that still threatens children in a few places around the world.

“Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) nearly 30 years ago, new cases of polio have dropped by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350 000 cases annually when the world saw about 1000 cases per day in the 1980s, to just 37 cases globally in 2016. The African region had made tremendous progress towards polio eradication, from accounting for almost  half   of  the  global  polio  burden  with   128  cases   in  2012,  to  four cases in  2016. After not confirming any wild poliovirus for close to two years, the region suffered a set-back in 2016 when four cases of wild poliovirus were detected in geographically remote and insecure areas of northern Nigeria,” it stressed.

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