By Ndidi Chukwu
The Government of Canada has announced a donation of $19.9 million to Nigeria towards the eradication of polio in the country.
Canada’s Minister of International Development and La Francophone, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said the grant which will be implemented during the period 2016/17 – 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is expected to sustain the polio eradication gains through strengthened Routine Immunization (RI).
The minister who made the announcement on the margins of the Women Deliver’s 4th Global Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, said the conference presents a unique opportunity for discussing and engaging in dialogue on matters related to women and girls, with a specific focus on health.
Our Correspondent reports that the project will help immunize approximately 6.6 million girls and 6.9 million boys against polio in 11 high risk Nigerian states, it will also train approximately 154,000 vaccinators and help protect up to 250,000 children from vaccine preventable diseases.
As recently as 2012, Nigeria was the global epicentre in the world as Nigerian polio virus frequently spread internationally, causing outbreaks as far away as Indonesia.
However, in September 2015, the World Health Organisation removed Nigeria from list of endemic countries and for over 22 months now, there has been no reported case of polio. However, on-going immunization activities are essential to forestall any re-emergence of the virus.
The funding by the Canadian government is therefore expected to contribute towards the consolidation of the polio eradication gains and strengthening of the RI system.
The WHO Country Representative, Dr. Rui Gama Vaz said the funding will facilitate an increase in RI coverage, and thus assist in achieving national targets.
“This will undoubtedly curtail infant mortality rates as statistics show that 40% deaths in children under five in Nigeria are caused by vaccine preventable diseases,” he said.
Dr. Vaz further praised the concerted effort and supports by governments and partners which enabled Nigeria to be polio-free for over 22 months.
Health Reporters gathered that with this new wave of support, WHO will continue to support the Nigerian government to build on the successes of the polio eradication initiative towards certification, strengthening RI and assist with polio legacy transition planning in the years to come.