By Ndidi Chukwu
Having interrupted the transmission of Wild Polio Virus in the Nigeria, in few days, the World Health Organization (WHO) will officially release its results which is expected to announce the nation’s successful year without new infections. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency mentioned that pending laboratory tests are stopping the World Health Organisation from formally delisting nation from countries where poliomyelitis is endemic.
Dr Ado Muhammad the executive director of the agency however optimistic that the “feedback from the lab will be released in the next few days, and then we will receive formal communication from the WHO that Nigeria has been delisted as a polio-endemic country.”
On Tuesday, a committee of experts met in Abuja to review Nigeria’s progress against the virus and recommended improved campaigns, routine immunization target of 95% coverage and stronger surveillance.
“We don’t want a situation where cases of wild poliovirus will be in existence and we miss it,” said Ado. “These three things need to be in place for us to get to 2017 without a case of wild poliovirus and then certification.”
The committee will also recommend more aggressive plans to “make sure every child is reached with a vaccine in the next two years,” said Prof Oyewale Tomori, who chairs the expert review committee.
“Funding is available up till the end of this year to cover immunisation. Part of what the expert review committee is doing is to find out what happens next year, and the earlier we do that, the better.”
Jean Gough, country representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund, said the July 24 milestone shows “Nigeria can deliver if we all focus.”
“But we are not there yet. We have to continue to keep focus to ensure we reach every child, and not forgetting children caught in conflict.”
WHO’s director of Polio Eradication, Dr Hamid Jafari has called Nigeria’s interruption of the virus’ transmission an “unprecedented progress that brings the world closer to completing polio eradication.”
But he warned risk of resurgence still remained from populations still infected but not under surveillance and from the virus crossing borders in global travel, since the virus is still endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Nigeria needs to maintain its momentum—both political and financial,” Jafari said.
Government budget for financing immunization has steadily grown over time, but the “important thing is actually to own it,” said Tunji Funsho, head of End Polio Now Committee of Rotary, one of the world’s biggest funders of polio eradication.
“If government shows this leadership, they can now appeal to well-meaning Nigerians and corporate to contribute to this….So we are not always going cap in hand to appeal to donors for funding for things that are basic.”
The experts review committee meeting comes more than two weeks after Nigeria officially marked an entire year since the last recorded infection of wild poliovirus on July 24 and expects certification if it manages to stay polio free till 2017.