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Polio: WHO commends, cautions Nigeria

By Sola Ogundipe
ACCOLADES continued to pour in for Nigeria’s remarkable polio eradication efforts in the last one year even as the 63rd World Health Assembly closed last Friday in Geneva, Switzerland, but a note of caution from the World Health Organisation, WHO, punctuated the wide acknowledgment of the country’s successful march towards a polio-free world. Expectations are that as efforts continue to wax stronger, Nigeria will not be the last to eradicate polio.

“You have done well, but you can do better,” was the general consensus about Nigeria’s polio eradication efforts. Dr Bruce Aylward, Global Co-ordinator of the Polio Eradication Initiative, PEI, urged the country to concentrate on sustaining the commendable eradication efforts. “We’d rather Nigeria does not relent in her effort, but build on it,” he stated in a chat.

Aylward told Good Health Weekly that the WHO was committed to ensuring that Nigeria sustains the gains attained over the past year by ensuring adequate availability of vaccines and personnel that would enable a more effective immunistaion drive.”The World Health Organistaion wants to get the best vaccines into the hands of Nigerians.,” he said.

Speaking in Geneva, the WHO top official said: “The critical step in ensuring the completion of polio eradication in Nigeria is to get the best vaccines into the hands of Nigerians all over the country. The way that can be done is to ensure we have the best vaccines which are the safest and most powerful vaccines available to finish the job available to Nigerians and the partnership heels with the financing of these vaccines so that we can get them into the country.”

In his statement, Alyward pointed to contributions of the World Bank, Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have are making sure they are available. Making these vaccines available has always been a challenge because everybody wants them. We are trying to make sure preferentially that our friends in Nigeria get the vaccines needed to get the job finished.”

At the five-day global meeting of stakeholders in health, Nigeria was pivotal in the presentation of a new strategy to eradicate the menace of polio from the world. The strategy provides new and more effective wild polio outbreak plans while focusing on developing solutions to problems in countries still afflicted with the wild polio virus by providing more avenues for the monitoring by the WHO so that government can be held more accountable.

The nation was apportioned ample opportunity to present the best practices with which it initiated and hoped to sustain the marked reversal in the fortunes of polio eradication. In a move similar to the outing at the 62nd WHA, the nation gave account of how political commitment, advocacy and community mobilisation coupled with the right technical support of partners, contribute to improvement in quality and coverage of immunisation activities and dramatic decline in the spread of the wild polio virus in the endemic States of the country.

Particularly, the nation showcased how the engagement of key respected community leaders, coupled with improvement in immunisation service delivery helped to optimise and support routine immunisation initiatives and primary healthcare revitalisation efforts within the framework of the nation’s new National Health Strategic Development Plan.

There was also progress report in which the Assembly called for increased effort in supporting countries to making primary health care the bedrock of healthcare systems. There was reaffirmation that countries will only be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, on health if there are basic health care services in place essentially for maternal health and child health immunistaion among others. The WHO was mandated by the WHA resolution to improve its support at the country level to countries to dedicate suppoty to strengthening basic health systems for the majority. Primary health care is the bedrock of health care and if we want to make the difference, we should strengthen it, because it is the one that reaches the majority.”

Nigeria was pivotal in the presentation of a new strategy to eradicate the menace of polio from the world. The strategy provides new and more effective wild polio outbreak plans while focusing on developing solutions to problems in countries still afflicted with the wild polio virus by providing more avenues for the monitoring by the WHO so that government can be held more accountable.

The WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and Rotary International set out to eradicate polio in 1988. At no pint in time has the world come close to this target than now, despite fact that progress has been stalled several times and several deadlines have been missed.


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