There is a new resolve by the Nigerian government to tackle Polio, a crippling disease
After its meeting in Abuja last week, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) reiterated its resolve against tackling the crippling disease called polio. To this end, each of the governors would make a broadcast in their respective states underlining the importance of a polio-free society and the urgent need for every citizen to support the campaign to eradicate the disease.The governors and local government chairmen would equally visit traditional rulers to underscore the critical need for their involvement in the polio immunisation campaign. This is a commendable gesture.
Earlier in the year, Nigeria declared polio eradication a national emergency. This was aimed at meeting the 2012 global deadline of kicking out the disease that continues to devastate many communities, particularly in the north of the country. But after surveying the environment, Ms Jennifer Peters, a South African–based consultant for the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently dismissed any realistic hope of attaining the global goal of 100 percent immunisation by the end of 2012 in Nigeria. “The risk of an explosive return of polio in Nigeria and West Africa is ever present and raises the chilling spectre of many deaths and huge financial outlay to regain control,” she said.
Strings of factors undermine confidence in the country’s ability to emulate other parts of the world, except Afghanistan and Pakistan, in interrupting the wild polio virus. One, the violence in the north and consequent insecurity is curtailing the activities of the vaccinators who move from house to house to deliver the life-saving vaccinations. As a result of this, many people, particularly children, under the age of five, are not immunised. Two, cultural and religious factors have become sources of serious challenges in reaching millions of the children. To compound the situation, some of the violence-prone states like Borno and Kaduna are often reporting new cases of polio victims. Out of the 27 local government councils in Borno State, 12 have been marked down as high–risk areas for the disease.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by a virus which invades the nervous system and often causes irreversible paralysis. It can strike at any age but mainly affects children under five. There is no cure for polio as it can only be prevented through vaccination. In 2008 there were 803 confirmed polio cases which represented a whopping 85 percent in Africa. By the following year the number came down to 388. As at March 2010, the country reported only one. But the battle is not won yet. Of recent some cases have been reported in Yobe and Jigawa states. As at July 10, 2012, Nigeria had recorded 49 new cases of wild polio virus in 10 states compared to 25 cases during the same period in 2011.
What makes all these cases worrisome is that as long as a single child remains infected with polio, unvaccinated children all over the world are at risk. If there is, however, a relapse in the spread of polio, it is not out of trying. In four days in March 2010, some 46 million children, with massive support from UNICEF, were vaccinated to prevent the disease from spreading while the country witnessed some 95 percent decline in 2010.The Polio-free Torch Campaign launched by Vice President Namadi Sambo in Zamfara and Sokoto states ensured that decision makers were conscripted into the campaigns. This year alone Nigeria has conducted two national and sub-national immunisation campaigns and even intend to do three more “mop–up” campaigns before the year runs out.
Yet despite these efforts, there are setbacks and that is why the relevant authorities must now be alive to their responsibilities. The key to ridding the country of the devastating disease is a return to routine immunisation regime.