Traditional leaders in the North recently converged on Sokoto to deliberate on re-vaccination and strategies to ensure that all missed children in settlements are re-vaccinated in the region. This is with a view to bringing an end to the polio scourge that has crippled many children in the region. Mohammed Aminu writes
Polio is a dangerous disease that cripples and kills children. It spreads from one child to another and once a child is paralysed by polio, there is no cure. But, the disease experts say can easily be prevented with oral polio vaccine, given several times to all children under five.
It is believed that the scourge of polio continues to spread in Nigeria because many children are still not fully immunised with enough doses of polio vaccine. There is also the problem of non-compliance by many households, who reject the vaccines, despite the sensitization campaigns being periodically carried out by government that, the polio vaccine is safe and has no side effects.
Many children are usually missed during the immunization plus days, due to inadequate immunization services, poor work by vaccination teams and inadequate ownership by the communities.
Moreover, parents are skeptical and believed that the polio vaccines have negative effect on the children and will lead to infertility. Thus, despite efforts by government to bring an end to the polio menace, the disease has continued to ravage children in the North.
Polio had been eradicated in most countries of the world with the exception of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The disease is endemic in 10 states in the North which include : Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Borno, Yobe, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina and Jigawa States. Similarly, 77 new cases of wild polio virus were discovered in the affected States this year.
It was in view of the need to bring an end to the debilitating disease that, traditional leaders in the North resolved to actively support communities to ensure that every child is reached and vaccinated against polio and other preventable diseases, especially in scattered nomadic settlements in the region.
Speaking at the seminar, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Ado Mohammed, stated that the federal government was committed towards bringing an end to polio virus that had ravaged children in the region. He said the agency organised a meeting of traditional leaders in the North in Sokoto, with a view to devising new strategies to tackle the ugly trend in the North.
The NPHCDA boss said at least 77 new cases of polio were recorded in 10 states in the North. He pointed out that the agency in collaboration with traditional leaders was determined to go round 209 wards in 10 states which recorded the highest number of missed children.
He emphasised that the meeting with the traditional leaders will enable the agency get across missed settlements, particularly nomads with a view to devising the best approach to stop transmission.
“The objective of our meeting with the traditional leaders in Sokoto, was meant to plead with them to assist in order to seek recovery on 209 clinically missed wards with high number of infected children. So, our objective is to use the traditional institutions to make sure that un-vaccinated locations are taken care of, identify missed settlements and ensure that each child is vaccinated,”he said.
The NPHCDA Executive Director described the situation as unacceptable, saying traditional leaders should do more to bring an end to polio in the North.
“We believe nobody know the terrain than the traditional leaders and as such should intensify efforts to end the scourge,”Muhammad added. He expressed optimism that with sustained three rounds of immunisation, 90 percent of children would be vaccinated thereby bring an end to the scourge in the affected states.
In a remark, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar 111, said no stone will be left unturned by the traditional rulers to ensure that , more than 90 per cent of all the targeted number of children between the ages of five and below are adequately covered during the exercise.
According to him, the target of the end of this year for the stoppage of the interruption of the wild polio virus will be met .
“All the Emirs should go back to their respective domains and ensure that, all the targeted children are fully immunised against polio and the other child killer diseases. All the traditional rulers, those under them and all the key stakeholders will be carried along and be fully sensitised in this direction,”he added.
He pledged that the traditional rulers will sustain their current support to the presidential committee on polio eradication and those in the states as well as the local government councils.
The monarch expressed the determination of the traditional leaders to ensure the total eradication of polio in the country between now and the end of 2012. “We are assuring the President that we will sustain our current efforts aimed at totally stopping the transmission of the wild polio virus,”
“All the traditional rulers are totally committed and we will do everything humanly possible to ensure the success of the three polio immunization exercises scheduled for between now and October 2012,”he stated.
In a remark, Emir of Bama and the Chairman of Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Polio Eradication and Primary Health Care, Alhaji Kyari Ibn Elkanemi, expressed the commitment of traditional leaders in the fight against polio and child killer diseases in the North.
Also speaking, Head of Immunisation, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Mamud Zubairu,said most of the new cases of polio virus were discovered in rural settlements inhabited by nomads. He attributed the challenges to the fight against polio, to poor micro planning, missed children and security situation in endemic areas. He noted that the disease had been persistently circulated in 209 wards, where the agency failed to record 90 percent vaccination.
He appealed to the traditional leaders in the North to make a pact to pro-actively mobilise their communities for comprehensive access to all vaccination campaign by engaging physically in vaccination activities in poorly performing wards.
“If a settlement was missed during the last immunisation , the traditional leader should ensure that the settlement is revaccinated, especially if the number of children reported vaccinated were not up to 90 percent,”Zubairu stated.
However, speaking in an interview with THISDAY on the ugly trend, State Commissioner of Health, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu, said the present administration was committed towards eradicating polio in the state by the end of this year. According to him, the re-vaccination exercise on polio was carried out in nine high risk local government areas which include: Wamakko, Gwadabawa, Illela, Rabah, Kware, Gada, Sokoto North and Sokoto South.
He attributed the current progress made in the immunisation programme, to the efforts of traditional and religious leaders in the sensitisation campaigns.
“We have witnessed tremendous progress due to the efforts of traditional leaders, who engaged communities in dialogue and this has gone a long way in enabling parents to accept the vaccines,” he said.
Aliyu explained that the disease had been curtailed to a large extent, as no single outbreak of wild polio virus was recorded in the State in the last three months. The Commissioner however, decried the issue of non-compliance by some elite in Wamakko local government area, who claimed that the vaccine causes infertility. He expressed the determination of the State government to meet the December 2012 deadline on the eradication of polio in the state. “The Sultan of Sokoto and traditional leaders in the North recently signed a written agreement of eliminating polio by December this year and we are determined to meet up with the deadline,”Aliyu stressed.
Nevertheless, observers believed that with the recent pact made by the traditional leaders in the North to re-double efforts towards ensuring that every child in their domain is re-vaccinated, the scourge would soon be eradicated. This was based on the belief that if the community works together and is mobilised for routine immunisation and polio eradication campaigns, every child can be reached with the polio vaccines..