Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, Muhammad Ali Pate
By Patrick Ugeh
Despite the murder of nine polio vaccinators by religious extremists in Kano and Borno States a few weeks ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication have restated their resolve and commitment to ensuring the eradication of the disease from the country this year.
The Chairman of Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, Muhammad Ali Pate, and WHO's Regional Director, Louis Sambo, expressed their confidence about the elimination of the crippling ailment this year after a meeting of the task force in Abuja Thursday.
Pate, who is also the Minister of State for Health, said: “The president has shown strong commitment to finish the work of eradicating polio in Nigeria... and we have come as a task force to discuss and identify the way forward.
“We will continue to talk and explain to our people the importance of getting our children immunized."
He assured that the government would give the needed protection for the health workers that are out there "doing very good work."
He encouraged them not to be cowed into submitting to the evil machinations of those who murdered the health workers.
“We know it is not easy, but we have to realise that if we do not do anything, more children will be paralysed and even die from preventable causes," he said, adding that, "It is unfortunate, but the best way forward is for us to do the right thing. The right thing in this instance is to continue to immunise our children not only against polio, but also against other vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We are encouraged by the support we are getting from our governors, our traditional leaders who are here and civil society organisations and many other stakeholders, including even the families of the victims who believe that the recent attack should not deter us in the good work that is being done.”
Pate contended that there was no reason for Nigeria to be mentioned among polio-endemic countries as “the majority of the world have already taken a direction and they are bringing out their children and are getting immunized and the virus is stopping. Even in this country, majority of local governments are polio-free.”
On his part, the WHO regional head, Louis Sambo, assured that his organisation and other partners in the polio eradication campaign remained committed to ensuring that the scourge was totally wiped out in Nigeria this year.
“Nigeria remains the only polio-endemic country in our region," he lamented, "and WHO and other polio eradication partners are very committed to work and support the effort of the government and people of Nigeria to stop the circulation of polio virus in the country”.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Ado Muhammad, explained further the purpose of the meeting: “This is another in the series of meetings of the Presidential Task Force on polio eradication in Nigeria where we take stock of the situation and see how we are doing as a programme and also discuss with states and local governments to see how we can further forge ahead in terms of improving on the quality of the campaign.