FG: New Polio Cases Have Set Nigeria Backwards


• Certification to start all over
Tobi Soniyi and Paul Obi in Abuja
The federal government on Thursday said the establishment of two new cases of Wild Polio Virus 1 in Borno State has set Nigeria backward in the fight against the complete elimination of polio virus in the country.

The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, said though the development has set the nation back, the federal government would do everything possible to be on top of the situation.

Authorities reported Wednesday that Nigeria recorded two new cases of Wild Polio Virus Type 1 at Gwoza, a border town and Jere in Borno State, on Tuesday, two years after Nigeria celebrated the interruption of the virus.

Speaking to journalists yesterday on the sideline of the Family Planning Consultative Stakeholders’ meeting at the Banquet Hall, State House, Abuja, the minister said the federal government and stakeholders were drawing out emergency plan and are dispatching a team to Borno State to start immunisation.

Adewole explained that the federal government would do three rounds of special immunisation campaigns to make sure that the situation is contained.

The minister said: “It is unfortunate that we have the development. It has set us back. But I can assure the nation that we will do everything possible to be on top of the situation. We are meeting again today. We had a meeting yesterday to look at the situation. We are drawing out an emergency plan and in the next 48 hours, we are dispatching a team there and we are going to start immunisation.

“We would do three rounds of special immunisation campaigns to make sure that we contain the situation.”
Adewole, who linked the outbreak to the insurgents eclipse, informed the international community that Nigeria would immediately launch a robust response.

“One of the cases is from Gwoza, which is actually close to the border. The other one is Jere. We suspect that both of them are linked to the insurgents eclipse. The president when we had a meeting last week, observed that as we liberate more areas, we should expect challenges.

“But we did not expect that there would be polio. We were expecting nutrition and other problems. As a nation, we will rise up to the challenge. We are assured by our international partners and we will launch a robust response.

“We had a meeting with the World Health Organisation (WHO) yesterday and other partners. We are meeting again today. We are in touch with Borno State governor as well as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Even though we have degraded the insurgents, there are a few hit and run cases which have endangered security in the area. We have also set up a special team around the Lake Chad basin. We are monitoring Lake Chad Basin. So, there are a few areas where we really have to do more work in other to ensure that we step up immunisation and take care of our people.”

The minister said there’s enough funding for immunisation in the 2016 budget and has also signed on to a World Bank loan to ensure sufficient funding.

Speaking on the impact of the outbreak, the state Commissioner for Health, Borno State, Dr Haruna Mshelia said Nigeria would have to start the polio-free certification all over again.
He maintained that Gwoza is currently still partially accessible where people are living with no access to modern health care.

The outbreak of the two cases came amid warning by coalition of groups in the health sector that non-release of funds by the Federal Ministry of Finance will impact negatively on Nigeria’s efforts on ending polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

They accused the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, of deliberately risking the lives of about 7.2 million Nigerian children following the refusal of the Federal Ministry of Finance to release the N12.8 billion earmarked for immunisation in the 2016 national budget.

According to Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR), Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) and Vaccine Network in Nigeria (VNN) “After months of the president accent to the 2016 budget and barely five months to the end of the year, no releases for implementation of routine immunisation activities which will protect the lives of Nigerian children from vaccine-preventable diseases and death.

They had questioned the commitment of the Nigerian government to save the lives of millions of vulnerable Nigerian children, adding that the non-release of the routine immunisation funds to the relevant agencies in charge of implementation exposes Nigeria to a possible reversal of the achievements of two years since the interruption of Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria.

Coordinator of VNN, Mrs. Chika Offor, stated that “the financial burden of polio eradication was largely borne by international donors, Nigeria’s total contributions to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative amounted to roughly $111 million between 2006 and 2013; and the estimated funding required for eradication efforts in Nigeria is $170 million just for 2016.

“Nigeria has recorded significant progress in reducing childhood mortality, and vaccines have been a significant contributor, prioritizing the sustainability of these gains will be important at this point. New vaccines such as the pentavalent vaccine have been introduced and Routine Immunisation coverage has improved significantly from about 48 per cent to 50per cent in 2012 and 2013, to coverage of 87 per cent nationwide in 2014,” she added then.