JOSEPHINE AGBONKHESE & TARE YOUDEOWEI
Nigeria risks cascading to square one in the fight against poliomyelitis if the remaining one to two percent prevalence in the country is not tackled urgently, Chairman World Polio Day Committee, Rotarian Yemi Osilaja, has said.
Speaking recently in Lagos during a 10-kilometre awareness walk against poliomyelitis, which took scores of Rotarians from the National Stadium through Mosalashi, Iponri flyover in Lagos, and then back to the stadium, Osilaja reiterated that Rotary was determined to eradicate polio in Nigeria in the next two years.
“Nigeria is about 98 to 99% free but that little gap, if not taken care of, can go draw us back to where we were 10 years ago. So, we want to ensure we kick it out once and for all. Even after we have done that, we have to continuously immunize children to be sure we are free because polio disables children. For us, issues of polio must always be at the forefront and any opportunity we get to talk about polio, we would embrace it.
“We are excited because of the support we have been getting from all over the world. As you are aware, we have only three countries with polio right now, which are: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, “ Osilaja said during the walk organised by Rotary District 9110, Nigeria, and tagged ‘Walk-a-thon’.
Also giving the minutiae of the aims of the walk, Past District Governor, Dr Tunji Funsho, said the district hoped to achieve two aims through the walk.
“One is to continue creating awareness about the need to eradicate polio particularly in the south where we have not had polio for quite a few years; for mothers, families and care givers to continue ensuring that their children get routine immunization, including against polio. Also, that when health workers do house-to-house immunisation on national immunisation days, people do not say ‘oh my child has already gotten it at the health centre’.
“It is never too much because the vaccine has no side effects, it is non-toxic, so it can be taken as many times as possible. As far as there is any case of polio anywhere in the world, no child is safe. Even America that has eradicated polio for more than 20 years still immunises its children. The second is to raise at least half a billion dollars to complement funds available to end polio in two years,” Funsho said.