…Blames previous failure on insecurity
Rotary International has expressed optimism to meet the target of three years polio free for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to certify Nigeria as a polio free country.
Hon Elvis Chukwu, district governor Rotary International district 9125 speaking Abuja during the commemoration of World Polio Day said the Rotary International in partnership with security agencies has been able to reach the nooks and crannies of the country hitherto unreachable.
He lamented that insecurity hindered Nigeria from achieving polio free certification two years ago, adding that the country is almost achieving the target now.
“We are almost there but we don’t need to be complacent about polio, the job is been done in the field, we are trying to create awareness to end polio all over the world. In Nigeria we have gone two years down the line without any case of polio, we are hoping that if we are able to pull that through next year, in August Nigeria will be removed from the list of those endemic countries,” he said
Recall that only Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are labelled polio endemic countries presently.
He reiterated that the advocacy and awareness has to be maintained to ensure that every child is immunised and free from polio.
“We must continue to immunise our children because once one child is not reached, that child becomes a danger to others, so the campaign must be sustained whether we are certified or not but we are there” he stressed.
He added, “We Will be certified. We were close in 2013 before we had the outbreak in Borno. Due to security challenges, we couldn’t reach some of these areas but the good news is that we are collaborating with the Nigerian Army and other security agencies, some of the areas we can’t reach as Rotarians or our partners like UNICEF and WHO we have taught those soldiers how to immunise and they are doing it,”
Polio ambassador to Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor said religious factor and insecurity hindered previous certification, he there called for proper awareness and advocacy to eradicate polio.
“Religion and insecurity stopped health workers access to the children to vaccinate them,”
He added that constant and continued immunisation remains a vital tool to help eradicate the polio virus.
“We must continue to create awareness to ensure that every child is immunised and we must eliminate insurgency and address religious factor.”
The vice chairman, Nigeria National Polioplus committee, Dr Kazeem Mustapha lamented that Polio eradication remains a herculean challenge that requires active participation to stem the tide, adding that with the records so far, if Nigeria survives the next 12months without any case of wild polio, she will be certified polio free.
“Initially when the programme started everybody thought it will take a shorter time but as time goes, we realised that the task is more or less herculean than we thought but I can assure you that we are close to eradicating polio in Nigeria now.
“If we are able to survive another twelve calendar months without any case of polio, Nigeria will be certified polio free,” he said.
He attributed previous failures to security challenges in the northeastern part of the country which made it impossible for health workers to access some children.
“The reason why we have not been able to do that is because of the security challenges in the northeast which to a very large extent has denied us access to a reasonable number of children but there is an incredible partnership now with the military and all the global polio partners are doing everything they could to get access to these children.”
He said, “With this tempo we are very sure of getting the certification this time around.”
He appealed to all Nigerians not to be complacent on issues of Polio, adding that when certified, routine immunisation has to be sustained to ensure that every child given birth to is immunised and free from polio.
The coordinator, end polio campaign, Pearl Ijioma averred that previous failures thought a lesson and all measures are put in place to ensure success this time.
She said the response has increased and more people have joined the advocacy to ensure polio eradication.
“For us it is double celebration because Nigeria has recorded two years of no polio case and we are counting down. We are hoping that by August next year WHO will take us out of polio endemic countries.
“We are wiser now, our eyes are open, we cannot afford to be complacent, more people now understand the need to campaign against polio, until the last child in the world is immunised no child is free,” she said.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Rotary International aside immunising the children also distributed school bags to the beneficiaries.
They also erected signages at strategic locations to intensify the campaign