By Asmau Ahmad
“As long as polio exists anywhere, it is a threat to children everywhere”, this was among the messages in the press release circulated by the Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) to mark the World Polio Day, Tuesday 24th October 2017.
It also reported that African organizations in over ten countries had join hundreds of others across the world calling for continued vigilance on polio. Polio cases have been reduced by 99.9% worldwide since 1988. Fewer than 40 cases worldwide were reported for all of 2016, thanks to the 10 billion doses of oral polio vaccine that have been administered since 2000. So far, 2017 has seen the lowest case count in recorded history, but the job is not done yet.
Nigeria is one of three countries, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, still endemic for polio. Although Nigeria has not reported any cases of polio since the August 2016 outbreak, it is possible that the polio virus is continuing to spread undetected in the Lake Chad region given ongoing inaccessibility, surveillance gaps and a fluid security situation. To stop the outbreak and respond to the ongoing risk in the area, Nigeria and neighboring countries have implemented large-scale vaccination campaigns. Now we must ensure accurate surveillance systems are in place to sustain the benefits.
With the eradication of Polio, comes an expected reduction of resources allocated to Polio. Polio resources, however has for many countries supported the cost of routine immunization and strengthened health services. With the resources allocated to polio reducing, countries will have to ensure that they increase their support to routine immunisation.
In January 2017, 54 African Heads of State endorsed the Addis Declaration on Immunization along with their peers, through which they acknowledged that despite their endorsement of the Global Vaccine Action Plan, they are largely off track. Having endorsed the ADI, Nigeria has to go beyond commitments to appropriate policies, increased efficient domestic spending and resource allocation to Immunization and Polio in particular and adequate delivery of quality services across the country.
“In Nigeria, we have have not had any case of polio since last year 2016. Yes we must remain vigilant and push towards the last mile of eradicating Polio for good. Unless Polio is completely eradicated from every single country, the risk of resurgence remains” says CHR.