By Sola Ogundipe
WHO will be the last to eradicate polio? This is the million dollar question begging for answers even as the world enters the last lap of the race towards global polio eradication. The die is cast. In the last few years or so, the polio eradication race has been strictly between the so-called P-A-I-N countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria.
In the eyes of the world, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria collectively represent the final challenge. Of the four, Nigeria is probably in the eye of the storm as the most significant link towards attaining the chequered goal of eradication.
Wherever there is talk about importation of the wild polio virus orÂ re-emergence or resurgence of the disease, Nigeria is sure to be the recurring decimal.
International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander was not wrong when he recently described polio as â€œthe challenge that remains.â€ Though there is but one goal, the task of meeting that goal is so different for each ofÂ country.
For Pakistan andÂ Afghanistan it is the conflict of sorts each nation is facing. In India, the problem is more about reaching the remote areas with the most effective vaccine.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to this eradication drive is Nigeria. But there is hope because progress is being recorded. â€œNigeria is making progress, we have come far from 2003,â€ notes Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate, Director General National Primary Health Care DevelopmentÂ Agency.
â€œIf we can keep along that path, we canÂ meet the target of polio eradication, other childhod vaccine preventable disorders we can guarantee child survival in line with objectives of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG 4).â€
But to attain this lofty goal, Nigeria first needs to reach more children with immunisation and vaccination that will preventÂ deaths in the first place.Â Basic elements such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases and other diseases accounting for a large proportion of childhood deaths must be tackled just as the challenge of human resources at the primary healthcare facilities.
Until polio is eradicated in the PAIN countries, no other country is truly safe. Let it not be written that Nigeria is the last to eradicate polio.