FG to Release N9.8bn to Fight Polio

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Paul Obi and Marvellous Okeke in Abuja

In a drastic effort to tame the further spread of new cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV), the federal government wednesday said about N9.8 billion of the annual budgetary allocation for immunisation would be released this week to ensure that Polio is effectively tackled.

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, at a briefing in Abuja on government’s efforts to squarely address the challenges associated with the outbreak of the two new cases in Borno State, denied reports that the Federal Ministry of Finance withheld the release of the 2016 budget for immunisation.

Adewole told journalists that contrary to reports, government, through the ministry of finance, had earlier released about N6.5 billion for polio aimed at arresting the ugly incidents of new cases of polio as recorded last week.
He said: “By Monday, the N9.8 billion budgeted for immunisation will be released to fight vaccine preventable diseases, particularly, Polio virus.”

Last week, Nigeria reported two WPV1 cases in Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas of Borno State after two years without a single case.

The minister explained that “following the confirmation of the outbreak of WPV in Borno State, to ensure the containment of all the cases and prevent further spread of WPV to other states, I have approved the revision of the robust WPV outbreak response plan developed by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and its partners.
“The response plan includes five (rounds of polio campaigns, two of which are focused on 18 northern states and two to be conducted nationwide, one to be conducted in five states. These campaigns will be synchronised with the affected regions and provinces in Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Central African Republic.”

According to Adewole, “For the sub-national campaigns, 31,540,054 children are targeted to be vaccinated each round with oral polio vaccines across states in the North-east, North-west and North-central zones of the country. For the nationwide response, 56,363,618 children will be vaccinated between October and November 2016.

“The revised plan was informed by factors such as historical data on WPV affected areas, pattern of transmission over the last five years, population displacements due to insecurity in the North-east, likelihood of spread of the virus to other neighbouring countries and population immunity.”

He informed journalists that “The justification for the expansion of the initial schedule includes the fact that, given previous history of exportation to other countries and the suboptimal routine immunisation coverage in several countries in the African region, the response requires that adequate protection be provided to vulnerable children at the risk of infection.

“Report from the detailed investigation carried out by our team revealed that both cases came from security compromised areas of Borno State, which have had limited access to any form of health services including immunisation since 2011.

“The case reported in Jere Local Government Area was from a child who had arrived at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri (Muna camp in Jere council area, after trekking for two days following the provision of an escape corridor by the military authorities. The second case was detected in Gwoza Local Government Area. Both rural areas have had their health facilities destroyed by insurgents and accessibility was a barrier to service provision. Both cases have been linked to the polio cases detected in Bama in 2011.

“For Nigeria, while the timely response in the affected local government areas and environs is critical, the country needs to be proactive to ensure all eligible children are vaccinated within the shortest time feasible so as to limit the spread of the virus beyond the affected areas and borders of the country.”

Adewole contended that “there remains a high risk of further spread of the virus due to population movement within and around the state. This spread is not limited to surrounding states but could also affect neighboring countries around the Lake Chad region.

“So far we have, commenced vaccination of children in accessible areas of Gwoza, Jere, Maiduguri Municipal Council (MMC), Bama, Mafa (1 ward) LGAs concurrently with active case search. Relatedly, we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence to provide security for the health workers during the house to house immunization and also to provide timely information on security and accessibility situations in Borno State and its environs.”

He said: “Plans are underway to reinforce and intensify immunisation of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. To this end, adequate supplies of vaccines have been provided at different International Port Health locations and airports. This is consistent with the international Health Regulations (IHR).

“Mindful of the malnutrition amongst recently liberated populations, the outbreak response will be an integrated one. Therefore, I assure that the Nutrition Department in the Federal Ministry of Health, the NPHCDA as well as Development Partners in the Nutrition programme will work closely with the Response Team in Borno State to provide nutritious meals alongside Oral Polio Vaccines to the targeted children.

“Consequently, I have directed that food materials at Community Management Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) sites be redirected to support immunisation services. Children who have symptoms of malnutrition, seen at health camps will be referred to CMAM sites for food packages after receiving polio vaccination,” the minister submitted.