Concerted efforts by stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria is certified polio-free next year suffered a setback last week with the confirmation of new polio cases in Borno State. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Federal Ministry of Health disclosed that two cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) were recorded in Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas of the state.
As a result of this sad development, the Federal Government has approved a revision of the nation’s Wild Polio Virus outbreak response plan. The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, explained that the initiative includes five rounds of polio campaigns, three of which are focused on 18 northern states, and two that will be conducted nationwide.
Adewole also assured that funds will not pose a problem as the government has earmarked N9.8 billion for the exercise. It is good news that the new onslaught against the child-killer disease by the Federal Ministry of Health is supported by WHO, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Meanwhile, government has commenced immunisation of children in accessible areas in Gwoza. It has also liaised with the Ministry of Defence to provide security for health workers during the house-to-house immunisation and also provide timely information on security and accessibility situations in Borno State and its environs.
Also, the UNICEF Polio Eradication Director, Reza Hossaini, in a statement said that “we cannot deny the connection between conflict and the continued threat of polio. The two new cases mean children across the Lake Chad region are now at particular risk. With our partners, we will not stop until we reach every child with polio vaccination.”
We commend the federal health authorities and their global partners for rising quickly to contain the new polio cases in Borno State. What the new polio outbreak has demonstrated is that there should be no room for complacency in our resolve to kick polio out of Nigeria.
There is the need to intensify national, state and local efforts geared towards reaching every Nigerian child with polio vaccination. No doubt, the insurgency in the North-East may have made it difficult to reach some of the children with the vaccination.
The new polio outbreak has, indeed, made it compulsory to reach every child with the vaccination. Therefore, the health workers should intensify efforts to vaccinate all children in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and other hard-to-reach areas. In fact, every child in the country must be vaccinated against polio.
Parents and guardians must also make sure that their children are vaccinated. The vaccination is administered free. It is available in all health facilities in the country. Traditional rulers, religious leaders and all stakeholders should join in this last minute effort to eradicate this disease.
They should urge their followers to embrace polio vaccination to stop their children from contracting the disease.
The Federal Government should embark on massive enlightenment on the need to immunise all Nigerian children against the disease, using all available mass communication tools. Such messages should be available in English, Pidgin and major Nigerian languages.
Parents should be made to understand that the polio vaccine is safe. States, local governments and non-governmental organisations working on polio eradication should team up in the effort to vaccinate all Nigerian children against polio and other childhood diseases. This is the time that all hands must be on deck to stamp out this disease.
Surveillance activities must be intensified and sustained at all our entry borders to ensure that those coming into the country are free from the Wild Polio Virus. The health workers should go to schools, markets and worship places, to vaccinate all available children. We call on all Nigerians to cooperate with the government to ensure that polio is finally eradicated from the country.