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Dangote’s Giant Strides In Ending Polio In Nigeria



The Dangote Group, over the years has continued to support the eradication of polio in Nigeria.

Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. It is an infectious viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause temporary or permanent paralysis, most especially in the leg. Children not older than 5 years are more likely to contract the virus than any other group, therefore the epidemic inflicts economic loss of colossal dimension on a nation as children, the future generation, which forms a plank of the productive population are affected.

Polio is caused by a highly contagious virus specific to humans. The virus usually enters the environment through the faeces of someone who is infected. In areas with poor sanitation, the virus easily spreads through the fecal-oral route, via contaminated water or food. In addition, direct contact with a person infected with the virus can cause polio. The infection with poliovirus and direct contact with persons increase the risk.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), a country is regarded as polio free if no cases have been detected for a year. However, no cases of the virus have been reported in the last sixteen months in Nigeria but it is feared that it is still possible polio circulates under some prevailing circumstances as was the case, where a particular strain of virus resurfaced after five years in 2016 which professionals adduced to inadequate surveillance and under-vaccinated populations. Even a single case is considered an epidemic.

In his continuing effort to see that Nigeria is certified polio-free, the preident, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, called for improved data quality in the process. Dangote made the call during an end-of-the-year annual review meeting through video conference between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation and the governments of six Northern States of Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Yobe that have being strengthening routine immunisation and polio eradication efforts.

The six governors had signed a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen routine immunisation (RI) and polio eradication. The MoU was extended recently from 2018 to 2022; to include revitalisation of primary healthcare in the respective states.

The video conferences took place between the co-chair, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote (represented by the managing director of ADF, Zouera Youssoufou); the state governors; the  minister of Health; the executive secretary of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, other top officials and state executive secretaries; and representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF); the World Health Organisation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Global Fund.

During the bi-annual review, which spanned two days, the progress made by each of the six states in terms of RI and polio eradication was analysed and suggestions on improvement made. Yobe State, in particular, was singled out for praise for making the most remarkable improvement in its RI efforts since the MoU was signed.

Dangote, who acknowledged the efforts of the state governments to eradicate polio, called for greater involvement of the traditional leaders in the RI process, and also advocated improved data quality from the governments and all relevant stakeholders. He also sought timely release of counterpart funds from the partner state governments to sustain the process, while the Aliko Dangote Foundation will release its obligation once the States have deposited their own funds.

Dangote said “while it is very good to see your survey coverage for immunisation increasing, the difference between your administrative data and survey data is still very high, and this leads to many expensive repercussions – such as significantly more vaccines being distributed than what the surveys show coverage at. In order to have an efficient and economical system with accurate supply and demand information, you will need to do more to improve your data quality.

“I would like to convene all the Governors in person in December to discuss the SMART Survey results, the LQAS and the progress you are making to address the data quality issues. This is in line with NPHCDA’s National Emergency RI Coordinating Centre and its ongoing support to your state around data quality improvement. To conclude, I would like to see a plan that shows how your team intends to reduce within 15 per cent the variance between administrative and survey data annually,” he added.

Likewise, Gates, Dangote and the UNICEF commended the progress made by the Yobe State Government in the immunisation of children within the last six months. Gates, who spoke via video-link, said, “It is encouraging to see improved results on routine immunisation over the last four rounds. Yobe State has shown the greatest improvement among all the six participating states. I give you a plus to that”.

He commended Governor Ibrahim Gaidam for his administration’s efforts and commitment, and urged him to sustain the tempo.

Nigeria is moving inexorably towards being certified polio-free, with the support of the Foundations, the responses from the six Northern states and the National Emergency Response initiated in January 2018 by the NPHCDA under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Health.

From survey findings, the visible progress made to eradicate polio is showcased in the increase in number of children who are eligible for immunisation (especially under-one) with huge decline in the number of vaccine-preventable mortalities.

Other signs of progress across the states include the capacity building of health workers, service providers and traditional leaders in the gathering of quality data concerning new-borns and eligible children, especially in hard-to-reach communities and settlements; with all the states recording increase in routine immunisation (RI) coverage.

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) latest report released on October 28, advocacy is needed from the top leadership of the GPEI and from donor governments to the highest level of the Nigerian government.

“The Borno government must realise that it is essential to continue efforts to further open up access and to increase surveillance by novel means as much as possible. It must clearly get the message that two years without the wild poliovirus does not mean that there is no virus there. The Nigerian government’s leadership must allocate resources to the Polio Programme to finish the job.

“Over the years, the government has been reducing its contribution to the Polio Programme. The contribution for 2018 has not yet been released, and, therefore, not committed for next year. In the current political environment in the lead-up to the elections, it is not clear that the budget will be acted upon until afterwards,” the report added.