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Northern leaders meet over Polio

By Chinyere Amalu

ABUJA — In their  determination to kick Polio out of the country by the end of 2010, Northern traditional rulers met, yesterday, in Abuja to discuss effective means of carrying out the campaign strategies.

In a meeting with the Executive Director of  Primary Health Develop-ment Agency, Ali Pate, in Abuja,  the traditional rulers noted that the only way to meet the target was to educate the community members.

Speaking at the forum, the Chairman, Governing Board, of the agency, Dr. Haliru Yahaya, who is the Emir of Shongan, Kwara State, said “educating the people at the community level would go a long way in eradicating the disease.”
According to him, though cases of Polio is drastically decreasing, extra efforts have to be put in place to ensure that the campaign is sustained.

“We would ensure that the state and local governments complement the Federal Government’s efforts by voting funds and providing the necessary tools needed to educate the people on the need to have basic information on prevention and adverse effect of the disease,” he added.

Also speaking, Chairman,  Nigeria National Polio Plus Committee, Mr. Busuyi Onabolu, said more than 85 million African children, including Nigerian, were exposed to dangers of  catching the virus.

Onabolu who spoke to journalists shortly after the meeting of northern leaders, said, “Nigeria is Polio endemic and unless all hands are on deck to ensure that efforts made are sustained, the virus will bounce back double.”

According to him, the significance of the meeting is to review progress made so far by the northern leaders towards kicking out Polio in their various states, and to find means of moving forward.

His words: “Our meeting today (yesterday) is to ensure that all children are reached by the end of June. Though concerted efforts are being made by all tiers of government to kick Polio out, Nigeria remains an endemic country for Polio virus.

“We cannot say that we have won the war because more than 85 million African children, including Nigeria, are exposed to the danger of catching the disease. We must finish the war, otherwise it will come back with vengeance.”

Also speaking to journalist, the Senior Programme Officer, Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Michael Galway, said the fight against polio demands a global effort, adding that “what Nigeria is doing to stamp out polio is important to the whole world.”

He, however, pointed out that with commitment and continued effort, “by June we hope to complete the work. The job is not yet done.”

He pointed out that though the foundation engages in other programmes in Nigeria, its focus is more on polio eradication, adding that the foundation has been offering its support to the country to win the war.

“Since the last two years, we have been supporting Nigeria in terms of funding to eradicate polio. Everybody is optimistic that we will see the end of polio in Nigeria by the end of this year, so we hope to lend our support to achieve this”, he added.

Earlier in his speech, the Executive Director, Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA), Dr. Ali Pate, said, though remarkable achievement has been made, “we are not yet there”.

He therefore, challenged the northern leaders to strive and ensure that all efforts made so far to kick polio out are sustained, especially in their communities.


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