By Chiyere Amalu
The race to end polio in Nigeria is on, there is no going back, and the resources are there. We cannot afford to fail because it will undermine efforts made so far to get where we are today in the fight against polio. It is possible to achieve this great goal.â€
These were words ofÂ the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate. They were words ofÂ a man who is optimistic that Nigeria would be free of polio by the middle of 2010.
When the war against polio eradication in Nigeria began in 1988, cases of wild polio virus (WPV) across the country was very glaring, but with commitment from all levels of government, itÂ dropped to 90 per cent in 2009, though about 388 cases were recorded from some States and one case of type 3 virus two months into 2010.
Significant successes has been recorded in some northern parts of the country which is regarded as high risk States, due toÂ commitment of the State governors, Chairmen of local governments and traditional rulers in that part of the country.
However, the situation in the eastern part of the country is a differnt ball game. In some States, governors and the local governments are not as committed and the sameÂ success stories witnessed in the north have not been replicated.
Good Health Weekly took a trip to Abia State to monitor the just concluded March round of Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs). In a chat with the Stateâ€™s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Candi Okezie Ahuama, it was gathered that Abia State and the entire eastern zone could achieve success also if all machinery isÂ put in place. â€œNigeria can be polio free if all stakeholders are involved. I believe in God and I know that with him all things are possible, we can achieve this if we the determination if there, but there must be collective effort from all quarters,â€ Okeze avowed.
He noted that government is putting everything in place including a strong political will to ensure that every child in the State is immunised and free of all child killer diseases.
However, heÂ blamed the local government for pitfallsÂ witnessed. â€œOur problem is the local government. The fund that supposed to be coming from that quarter is not forthcoming and it is really affecting the immunisation programme in the Sstate, but I believe we can stamp polio outâ€.
Director of Primary Health, Abia State, Dr. Oluoha however doubts if the gaps have been identified with active involvement of State health workers. He pointed to the huge gap existing in the execution of immunisation programme from the top to the bottom,Â blaming the national level for failure in logistic that might hinder the actualisation of this dream
â€œLet every body get the fund and be empowered equally. In terms of interrupting WPV, it is possible, look at what we achieved in 2005. The cases are there, but it can be tackled. We have about four more rounds this year, instead of reducing the expenditure, it should be increased so that all existing gaps would be covered. It is only then, that we can say yes, we can stamp polio out of the country.
SaidÂ Pate:Â â€œAs far as the fight against polio is con