Polio, the crippling disease, can be kicked out with sustained efforts
Today, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Polio Day 2014. While there are enormous challenges ahead regarding the disease, the country is making progress to eradicate polio across the states of the federation.
As of October 10, 2014, Nigeria had six cases of confirmed Wild Polio Virus (WPV1) in two states compared to 49 cases in nine states for the same period in 2013. The reduction in cases indicates that stopping transmission and ending polio is within the reach of the government and the people of our country. Nigeria’s progress in polio eradication is indeed underscored by strategic leadership of government and support from Global Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) partners with the aim of interrupting polio virus transmission by this year.
The effort is on course. More children in the country are being reached with vaccines due to the provision of health services (through health camps) alongside polio vaccines, improved engagement from religious leaders, and improvement in campaign quality. Health workers are also providing primary care services, including treatment for malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea, alongside the polio vaccine in key regions.
The Northern Traditional Leaders’ Committee on Primary Health Care Delivery has continued strong advocacy within their constituencies. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, and a host of other traditional rulers and leaders across the country have been visibly active in the efforts to mobilise their subjects. Their collaborations have not been limited to polio but most recently dealt with issues related to the dreaded Ebola virus. Such is the heightened response to public health issues.
Since 2010, some 18,000 Imams in high-risk areas have received training and information on polio, including messages for social mobilisation. The Polio Survivor Group (PSG), over 10,000 strong Volunteer Community Mobilisers (VCMs), Federation of Muslim Women Societies (FOMWAN), Da’awa Coordination Council of Nigeria (DCCN) and a host of other volunteer agencies and individuals have contributed to the progress made by the country. There have also been other private sectors actors who have pumped a significant amount of money into the efforts to eradicate polio. “It is unacceptable that polio continues to infect our children and cause such suffering in Nigeria” said Sir Emeka Offor whose foundation partners with Rotary International in the fight against polio to which he has donated $3.1 million (about N510 million) in the last three years.
However, achieving polio eradication requires sustained actions by all the critical stakeholders. Governments from local to state and federal levels must redouble their efforts to ensure that the financial resources to eradicate polio are rapidly and fully mobilised. There is also the need for sustained effort to cover the last mile of making history at this most critical time.
We are not ignoring the challenges, especially in some parts of Nigeria where insecurity has been an impediment to delivery of services to communities. However, despite an array of difficult terrain in far-flung and remote communities, volunteers and other polio workers still ensure that polio vaccine is brought to the doorsteps of families with under five-year old children. In any case, these challenges are not insurmountable and have not stopped the momentum of the progress made so far. Nigeria must now harness the progress of polio eradication to fuel momentum for other ambitious goals for children and other citizens in the country.
Polio eradication has significant benefits for children and communities all over the country. On a day such as this, we salute the men and women volunteers across Nigeria who are braving the odds to make our country polio-free.