By Joseph Erunke – Abuja

The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has said a total of 120 children in Nigeria have been infected with environmental poliovirus.

The children, according to the agency of the United Nations, are not in a particular region but scattered across different parts of the country.

UNICEF Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, revealed this during the 3rd quarterly Northern Traditional Leaders’ Committee, NTLC meeting on Primary Health Care, PHC Delivery on Monday, Abuja.

Hawkins, however, expressed optimism that given Nigeria’s good immunization infrastructure,it would come out of the outbreak in no time.

While noting that Nigeria accounts for 70% of polio cases across the African continent, he added that 78 million vaccines have already been utilized throughout Nigeria and 50million more were expected in the next months to counter the outbreak. 

Commending the Nigerian government and partners he said, “they are implementing the outbreak response to contain the spread of the virus just as we fought wild poliovirus together before, we need to fight the pandemic, polio and strengthen routine immunization.”

Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency  (NPHCDA) Dr Faisal Shuaib, said he was hopeful the situation would be brought under control.

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Shuaib however explained there was a clear distinction between the wild poliovirus which was eradicated from Nigeria and the entire African continent and the current outbreak of different types of poliovirus.

He said, “With the different disease outbreaks that we are currently contending with, it is imperative that our approach becomes more integrated. This is because they are all interwoven.

“Amidst COVID-19, we have Cholera, CVDPV2 which is a result of suboptimal routine immunization in some parts of the country.

“As we conduct outbreak response campaigns, we need to find a way to integrate our responses for efficient utilization of available resources and to enhance confidence in our people.

“The integration will also enhance our determination to continue to safeguard our wild polio virus-free status.  Consequently, Your Highnesses, mobilization, sensitization, advocacy and role modelling efforts should target multiple interventions simultaneously.

“This is a virus that exists where there is low routine immunization care, where women don’t take their kids for immunization shot against polio, measles and yellow fever-like our parents back then used to do.

“Where there is no full routine immunization and where there is poor water and sanitation then you begin derived to see that the virus is mutating just as you see in COVID-19 mutating the same thing applies to poliovirus.

“We would be able to mount outbreak responses to make sure that the tools that we are using will ensure that this outbreak stood. We are in control of the situation, hopefully, before the end of the rainy season, we will be able to carry out enough campaigns to make sure we are able to cover this.

“One other thing that is going to help us is that we don’t see this attack again is the increase in immunization coverage.

“Since 2016 were we recorded 33% of routine immunization it has now increased to about 71% and double the routine immunization coverage, we still have to get to about 90% before we stop seeing these outbreaks of these diseases.

“We are not there yet, but the unprecedented increase in routine immunization coverage is going to help us.

“One thing that is clear is that globally there has never been such an increase in routine immunization coverage like we are seeing in Nigeria.”

The World Health Organization, WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo,  commended efforts of the Northern Traditional Leaders in ensuring Primary Health Care services remains a priority in order to reduce the risk of preventable diseases and death in communities, noted that 

On his part, the Director of Immunization, U. S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr Omotayo Bolu, said Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of children with CVDPV2 and also the highest number of unimmunized children globally.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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