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Community engagement key to zero Wild Polio status in Nigeria – WHO

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Federal Government and its partners have been sustaining the “Zero Wild Polio” status since 2016 in the country through strong community engagement.

Dr Walter Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, said this on Thursday at the ongoing First Quarter Review Meeting of South East Traditional Rulers’ Committe on Primary Health Care Delivery in Awka, Anambra state.

The review meeting was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

Mulombo, who was represented by Dr Chukwumuanya Igboekwu, the Southeast Zonal Coordinator of WHO, commended the Federal Government for the community engagement in health initiative.

He said that the government, in its agenda for health, recognised community leaders and traditional rulers as key stakeholders in strengthening community participation.

According to him, the initiative is a best practice that can be exported to other countries in Africa.

He added that “it is on record that enormous work has gone into containing variant strains of the polio virus, with an attendant 90 per cent reduction in reported variant polio viruses as at last week, compared to the same period in 2022.

“This reduction is an indication of improved immunity among the population residing in communities.

“It is imperative to state that as of today, there is no type of polio virus detected in the South-East.

“We want to sustain this status in the Southeast zone and the entire country and in Africa as a continent.”

Mulombo also said that WHO would continue to support countries to increase the uptake of routine antigens for children and reach children who missed vaccination.

He said WHO would also support to restore immunisation coverage and strengthen immunisation systems within primary healthcare in the country.

“A vaccinated community is a protected community. Vaccinating through the life course will protect communities and reduce economic losses from out-of-pocket expenditure, as well as time wasted in recovering from ill health and caring for ill relatives,” he said.

In his remarks, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said traditional leaders possessed the power to mobilise and unite communities, as well as endorse primary healthcare initiatives.

Dr Shuaibu, who was represented by Dr Bassey Okposen, the Director, Disease Control and Immunisation, NPHCDA, said their role as advocates for the health sector was paramount, as it would empower the people to take charge of their health and well-being.

“Through your esteemed platforms, I encourage you to raise awareness about the importance of preventive care, early detection, and regular health check-ups.

“Emphasise the benefits of timely intervention and the potential life-saving impact of primary healthcare services such as immunisation,” he said.

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