The Association of Polio Survivors of Nigeria has made a fervent call to all parents in Nigeria to get all their children below the age of five vaccinated against the polio virus in each and every immunization round to save them from the crippling disease.
“Every child that does not get the polio drops during a round, breaks the circle of protection and exposes self and others to contracting the virus,” said Misbahu Lawan Didi, national chairman of the association. He added: “Polio virus not only cripples a child but is a scourge for the whole of the country and the world.”
Speaking on behalf of the association that is an umbrella body for over 100,000 polio-affected people in Nigeria, he said: “Nigeria is the only polio endemic country in Africa. If we fail to end transmission of polio virus here, all other countries are at risk of resurgence of polio. I urge all religious and traditional leaders to come out and ensure each and every child is vaccinated in every vaccination campaign.”
Encouraged by the progress made so far in the fight against polio, the association has launched a massive push to support efforts for ensuring that no child is missed in the upcoming 11- 15 May Immunization Pulse Days (IPD) in 15 high risk northern states in a bid to curtail the transmission of the crippling virus before the rainy season sets in.
Since the beginning of this year, 16 children below the age of five contracted Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in eight states in northern Nigeria compared to 40 cases that were detected in 10 states for the same period in 2012. The decrease in number of infected children and the concentration of cases in fewer states as compared to last year is seen as an opportunity for Nigeria, the only polio endemic country in Africa, to curb the scourge of polio.
Experts say that the rainy season provides the best environment for the virus to circulate and if all eligible children in the most affected areas of Nigeria are vaccinated with the WPV vaccine in the next few rounds then the country stands a good chance in curtailing the transmission of the polio virus. The Polio Survivors Association has been actively participating in the efforts to sensitise people about the failure to vaccinate children against the polio virus by going out during rounds and speaking to some sections of the society that are against polio vaccination.
The recipe for success is to immunize more children more consistently and to protect polio-free areas quality gaps in the high-risk states, local governments and villages must be closed in the upcoming critical rounds before the rainy season. The key challenges facing the programme is the re-appearance of well-organized anti-immunization propaganda requires a coherent and effective response and the recent upsurge in security incidents in key states, especially Borno and Kano, that have delayed activities and hampered access to high risk areas.
Experts warn that if the global effort to eradicate polio fails, 250,000 children each year could be paralysed or die as a result of the disease.