By Sola Ogundipe, in Geneva
Nigeria is taking the lead in an aggressive new strategic plan designed to respond to different transmission dynamics, aimed at enhancing the successes of the global polio eradication drive, through utilisation of a new bivalent vaccine that addresses the problem of international spread of the wild polio virus.
This was the high point at the 63rd World Health Assembly, WHA, which opened at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, yesterday, even as the world commemorated the 30th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox.
Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, NHPCDA, Dr. Mohammed Pate, noted that Nigeria was making concerted progress in tackling the polio menace.
â€œWe need to sustain the progress we have made. We should not go to sleep because we would be standing in the way of the rest of the world from eradicating the disease. If we succeed in polio, then, the resources we are putting into the polio campaign can be put into controlling other diseases. So, we should remain resolute.â€
OnÂ smallpox, Pate said: â€œThe lesson for us is that it has been done before, it can be done again and Nigeria is almost there. We should not be blocking the success that the world wants to achieve.
Earlier, in her address to the Assembly, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, said the new polio plan, as requested by the 61st Health Assembly, maps out a more systematic engagement of the initiative in the broader effort to strengthen immunisation systems.
â€œThis is a most welcome emphasis. The polio initiative knows how to deliver interventions to hard-to-reach populations. This know-how becomes broadly beneficial in the home stretch to 2015, where the greatest challenge lies in reaching underserved populations.
â€œWe need to draw on every lesson, every approach, instrument, and innovative way of raising funds or collaborating together, from heads of state to civil society. We have little time left, and little space for unproductive debates. We need to move forward fast.
â€œWe need horizontal and we need vertical approaches. We need to scale up the delivery of commodities, and we need to strengthen the fundamental capacities that allow us to do so. We need coherence in policies, within and beyond the health sector, and we need complementarity of efforts.â€
She urged member nations to take cognisance of the fact that reaching the health-related Goals is not about national averages, but about reaching the poor, who are almost invariably the hardest to reach.
â€œIf we miss the poor, we miss the point. We have a long way to go, especially for maternal and newborn mortality, and we welcome the efforts being made, on multiple fronts, to accelerate progress in this area. But let us take heart from what has already been achieved,â€ she emphasised.