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Nigeria close to stopping polio if…

By Chioma Obinna

Nigeria’s Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation has concluded that the country could stop poliovirus transmission by mid-2011 if it were to intensify and upgrade its eradication programme, and build on the significant progress it has made.

A UNICEF statement released weekend noted that the Committee revealed that the incidence of wild poliovirus infection dropped an unprecedented 98 per cent since 2009.

During its 20th meeting in Abuja last week, the report said the Committee noted that the drop has been one of the most dramatic reductions in poliovirus circulation seen in any endemic country in the history of the polio eradication Nigeria had had a total of 376 cases in 2009 but only eight cases at 4 October 2010.

It is thanks to the sustained engagement of political and traditional leaders and the strong direction of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency that poliovirus transmission is now at the lowest level ever seen in Nigeria.

This effort was significantly supported by international partners like UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International, the Gates Foundation, US-CDC, USAID, World Bank and the German and Japanese governments.

But the battle against polio isn’t quite won yet: significant programme gaps must be addressed to stop transmission—and there have to be zero cases for at least three years for Nigeria to be certified polio-free.

The statement also revealed that it would continue its support for vaccine procurement, to ensure enough for every child in the country; for quality logistics so that vaccines reach their destinations safely; and for effective social mobilization and communication so that not a single child is missed.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Suomi Sakai said: “We have reason to celebrate, but not to relax. Once polio is interrupted, it has to stay interrupted. We have to work together to make sure that all children in the country are protected routinely against polio and against other vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus as
well.”

The Expert Review Committee, the Federal Ministry of Health and UNICEF, with other partners, strongly support mechanisms to deliver routine immunisation, one of which is Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Weeks. During the MNCH Weeks,which occur twice a year, children receive life-preserving immunisations,de-worming medications and supplements like Vitamin A free of charge. The next MNCH Week is in November.

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