Canada will contribute nearly $20 million to help eradicate polio in Nigeria, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie Marie-Claude Bibeau announced today.
The polio eradication drive implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO) will help immunize approximately 6.6 million girls and 6.9 million boys against the crippling and potentially deadly infectious disease in 11 high-risk Nigerian states, Bibeau said.
It will also train approximately 154,000 vaccinators and help protect up to 250,000 children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Polio will be eradicated in a few years,” Bibeau said in a statement made on the margins of the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. “It can happen with a sustained effort aimed at immunizing every child. Our aim is to help reduce the burden of diseases affecting mothers and children, and eradicate polio from Nigeria for good.”
Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, has now been stopped nearly everywhere in the world following a 30-year concerted international effort.
In September 2015, the WHO declared that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria and that there have been no cases reported since July 2014.
“We are grateful for Canada’s leadership and significant support to polio eradication and its commitment to keep Nigeria polio free,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, assistant director-general at WHO. “Given the leadership role that women play in polio eradication, it is particularly meaningful that this announcement is being made today at Women Deliver.”
Polio remains endemic in only two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. The eradication of polio globally now depends primarily on stopping the disease in these countries. As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere, WHO experts say.
With the refugee crisis in the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe and the continuing transmission of the virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there will be an increased risk of exporting polio to regions that are now polio-free, WHO warns.