Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Monday announced that Nigeria might exit the polio club - nations still endemic with the child-crippling wild polio virus next year.
Currently, Nigeria is one of the last three of such countries in the world. The other two are Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Chukwu gave the indication to end the blight the country suffers at the commencement of the Nigeria-India Rotary Corrective Surgeries project in Abuja.
Under the programme, a medical mission from India will begin corrective surgeries on 400 out of the 700 identified victims of the disease in Nigeria over the next 10 days, courtesy Rotary International.
The club has already contributed $1.2 billion and pledged another $75 million in the next three years towards eradicating the disease globally.
According to the health minister, the Federal Government had put in place a new emergency polio eradication plan in which all stakeholders, from President Goodluck Jonathan to Rotary Club, World Health Organisation (WHO) to the ordinary people - would be held accountable towards the eradication of the disease.
“I hope that by next year, we will tackle it and maybe we will be the ones accusing other nations of being the ones holding the world back in the eradication of the disease as they are now accusing Nigeria of doing,” he said.
To accomplish the eradication plan, Chukwu said Nigeria had established an effective surveillance structure that would ensure that all places not covered in the past would be captured in future immunsation programmes.
He explained that the failure of Nigeria to eradicate the disease before now was because some endemic communities were not reached in the course of polio immunisation besides the refusal of some familes to have their children vaccinated.
“We are very optimistic that we are indeed this close,” he indicated the narrow space left, “to ending polio now.”
Noting that prevention was always better than cure, Chukwu said in a situation where the damage had already been done, corrective surgery was the next step to give new life back to victims.
He regretted that in 2010, Nigeria was ahead of India in the battle against polio and the Asian country was usually asked to learn from Nigeria, but that the reverse was now the case.
But recalling the Battle of Darma in Saudi Arabia in which the Nigerian football team rose from four goals down to win the match, the minister said that that would be the story of polio.
“That is Nigeria for you,” he said.
Rotary International also donated 20 incubators at the occasion.
District Governor, District 9125, Felix Obadan, said the project was truly an example of the internationality of Rotary where a number of Rotary Districts in Nigeria were collaborating with India to make it happen.
The surgeries will take place at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, and Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nasarawa State.