By Chioma Obinna
â€œThey would have loved to walk but they canâ€™t. These people would have loved to play football, run like others do. Jump from one bus to another but they cannot do this. Why? All of us here today, should be held responsible if this trend should continueâ€
Such were the kind words of Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State at the recent Stakeholders Forum On Polio Eradication.
According to him, th e lives of polio victims, children unborn and every child in Lagos State is vital as it marks the dead end to polio transmission.
He continued; â€œToday signifies dead end for polio and marks the end of pain in our lives. Imagine a life without pain. I was once a child and I had people around me crippled by polio. They could not do what I could do then. They needed special shoes but I wore any available. The only way to stop this pain is by interrupting polio transmission which we are doing today.â€
The day, will remain evergreen as one in which the Lagos State government and all stakeholders gathered at the Adeyemi -Bero Hall of the State Secretariat, Alausa to chart a way forward on how Lagos state and Nigeria at large will be cut- off from the list of countries affected by polio – making up the acronym – PAIN – currently causing pain to the whole world.
Available records show that Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are the only countries in the world still battling with the wild polio virus.
Nigeria, is regarded as the most populous country in Africa, unfortunately, Nigeria has the most polio cases in the world, accounting for 83 per cent of global poliovirus cases and 95 per cent of all polio cases in Africa, according to a UN World Health Organisation report.
As of May 23, 2009, 278 WPV cases had been confirmed in 26 states as against 68 WPV cases spread across 20 states and 54 local government areas.
This un-cheering statistics could be traced back to 2004 and 2005 when some northern states halted the polio immunisation drive for 11 months following claims by some Muslim clerics that the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girls infertile as part of US-led western plot to depopulate Africa.
Unfortunately, today, this singular action, had not only brought set back in the drive to eradicate polio in Nigeria but solidifies the countryâ€™s place in the acronym – PAIN.
Fashola said it was disheartening for Nigeria to remain in the list of nations still bugged by poliomyelitis. Pointing out that performance in polio eradication is becoming an international hot issue, he said all eyes are now on Nigeria.
â€œThis concept called community is important to disease eradication because if the number of susceptible individuals can be reduced to a small number through vaccination, the pathogens itself can also be eliminated.
â€œIf the vast majority of the population is immune to a particular agent, the ability of that pathogens to infect another host is reduced, the cycle of transmission is interrupted and the pathogen cannot reproduce and dies out.â€
He explained that â€œThere is a huge economic reason for wiping out polio from our land. This is because domestic growth in an economy is achieved by a mixture of local and international capital and investment will only increase in a safe and disease free environmentâ€.
Appealing to stakeholders to join hands with the state government to kick the disease out of the country, saying countries that have eradicated the disease did not achieve the feat through a rocket science.
â€œLet me remind you all, that we will be held responsible today, if we could not stop the transmission of this disease. We need to remove Lagos State from this acronym PAIN and We all know that When Lagos State makes a few steps, Nigeria would have made thousands of steps. Let us join hands and make Lagos State polio free.â€
Also, speaking, Representative of the World Health organisation, (WHO), Dr. Peter Eriki who commended efforts of the state government on immunization activities encouraged the state governor to sustain and intensify all health interventions in the state.
It would be recalled that WHO earlier this year stated that the number of children in high risk states in Nigeria paralysed by the wild polio virus in 2009 has declined by over 80 per cent as compared to the same period in 2008.
Erik specifically noted that the recent procurement of 57 emergency ambulances for all the local government areas and Local Council Development Areas in the state as testimony of the efforts the state government.
In his address, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris said the decision to hold stakeholders forum was informed by the need to have all children immunised against polio in the state.
He said the forum provided opportunity for interactive session in a two – way fashion to discuss in an open and frank manner the challenges militating against polio eradication in the State.