By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Chioma Obinna
In a renewed effort to stamp out poliomyelitis in the state, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State will on Saturday chair a two-day stakeholdersâ€™ forum on polio eradication initiative aimed at fashioning ways to deal with the challenges militating against polio eradication in the state.
State Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris, who disclosed this yesterday in Lagos while briefing the press on preparation for the forum, explained that forum, which is to symbolically mark the day chosen by the Governorsâ€™ Forum, will also proffer solutions to identify challenges as well as ensure support both at the highest political and social levels of the State.
Idris noted that Lagos State, on account of its strategic importance to Nigeria as her commercial and industrial nerve centre as well as that of the West African sub-region, could not afford to be labelled a â€˜polio stateâ€™ especially against the back ground of her current giant stride to attain a megacity status of international repute.
He further disclosed that relevant stakeholders had been mobilised to attend the forum.
His words: â€œRelevant stakeholders have been identified and mobilised to attend the forum. They include members of the state executive council, local government chairmen, traditional, religious and community leaders, politicians, market women, village health workers, school proprietors, private medical practitioners, traditional birth attendants, parents, caregivers and other relevant persons/groups.â€
The Commissioner said the collective commitment to polio eradication, routine immunisation and primary health care by all the state governors of the country under the aegis of The Nigeria Governorsâ€™ Forum led to a resolution by the Forum that a day be set aside in which all the states would participate in the polio eradication campaign, adding that the date chosen for this initiative is Saturday, August 8, 2009.
He explained that poliomyelitis is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children under five years of age, stressing that the virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system particularly as infected people have no symptoms, but do excrete the virus in their faeces thereby transmitting infection to others.
Idris recalled that polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then, to 1,997 reported cases in 2006 adding that the reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.
He said â€œIn 2008, only 4 countries in the world remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988 â€“ Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria the so called PAIN countries and the current focus of the polio eradication initiative. As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Between 2003 and 2005, 25 previously polio-free countries were re-infected due to imports of the virus mainly from PAIN countries,â€ he noted.
Idris noted that in 1988, the World Health Organization (WHO), through the World Health Assembly (WHA), resolved to eradicate poliomyelitis by the Year 2000 through four main strategies including strengthening routine immunization; supplemental immunization activities; acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) Surveillance; and targeted mop-up campaigns.
â€œLagos State has adopted all the above strategies in its quest to eradicate polio. The State has continued to strengthen its routine immunization activities, including outreaches and has also participated in many supplemental immunization activities for the past several years. In 2009 alone, the State has participated in 5 supplemental immunization campaigns with attendant consistent improvement in the coverage of children immunized in the State with Oral Polio Vaccine.â€
The Commissioner noted that in spite of all these efforts, the State still recorded four outbreaks of the Wild Polio Virus between January and April 2009 in addition to the three cases that were observed between November and December 2008 adding that the implication is that many children are still missed hence the need for an encompassing stakeholdersâ€™ forum on polio eradication.