Nigeria still ranks among the four polio-ravaged or endemic nations in the world today. Other nations are Pakistain, Afghanistan and Chad. According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), "Nigeria has this year (2012), 17 cases with 11 type 1 (WPVI) and six type 2 (WPV2), Pakistain with 15 cases, Afghanistan six and Chad three".
The GPEI added "the most recent case had onset of paralysis from Borno State". In a related development, Sokoto and Borno states have been rated as the first and second states respectively with the highest number of polio cases in the federation. This is contained in the medical statistics presented by the International Partner Agencies (IPA). The Sokoto State Governor, Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko announced this at the recent State Executive Council meeting in Sokoto.
The present predicament of Borno becomes sour to the taste when observed against the background that some states hitherto classified along with Borno as highly volatile with regards the afflicting polio have since shelved the toga.
They have now got a clean bill of health. Besides, it is even more discouraging when viewed against the multi-dimensional approach and efforts of the present state government all geared towards enhancing both preventive and curative aspects of the medical care in the state.
How did Borno get to this sorry state or what are the factors facilitating the habitation of this monster that is becoming cancerous? This is a story that has been told and re-told.
For decades and inspite of the enlightenment programmes or campaign on the dangers of the polio scourge, some parents and even stakeholders out of sentiments, ignorance or outright non-committal just refuse to listen to voice of reason.
The federal government of Nigeria on page 135 of a publication titled "National Programme on Immunization (NPD)-Basic Guide for Routine Immunisation Services Providers" clearly indicate that our failure in this exercise will be in "ourselves and not in our stars". This is because with strict adherence and genuine implementation of the laid down guidelines on the immunisation exercise, success then failure is more assured.
Unfortunately, mischief, veiled propaganda, religious sentiment, politicisation, falsehood and ignorance have to a large extent impacted negatively on the laudable efforts of the authorities in curbing the menace of the polio virus. For example, some parents have become victims of the mischievous indoctrination that children who take the polio vaccine will in the future become barren if female, or impotent if male.
Unsuspecting or innocent parents from the opposition political party or parties in the state are ill-advised not to immunize their children since the government n power does not belong to their party.
This is mostly observed during the political era and a significant fraction of the field workers attested to this. Lack of free flow of information across the system and between the system and stakeholders and beyond in addition to inadequate monitoring system does not help matter as they hinder progress and planning ahead.
Related to this is the potency of the vaccines. As a result of the hostile climatic condition of Borno, especially the northern part with its attendant high temperature, vaccine easily loose potency due to lack of effective storage system. Even the state government cold rooms or storage facilities where these vaccines are stored sometimes lack the power (electricity) to operate effectively. It is observed that the immunisation schedule is not strictly adhered to thus making progress monitoring difficult.
Notwithstanding, the avalanche of challenges, with determination and political will, Borno can put behind her this menance.
Governor Kashim Shettima must give what it takes to make Borno a no go area for the six killer diseases, especially the polio scourge. There is need for total reappraisal of the prevailing situation and thereafter chart a road map for total onslaught on the polio virus in the state.
There is also the need for total involvement of all the stakeholders from the state level down to the hamlets. The state commissioner, advisers, civil servants, community, political, religious and other opinion leaders and women of influence at all levels of the state must be involved in the crusade. There is need for establishment of a task force at the state and local government levels to deal specifically with polio eradication and compliance with set objectives.
There is also the need for statewide sensitisation and enlightenment campaign on the dangers inherent in the prevalence of polio. This campaign must be deliberate, sustained and maintained in the local languages as opposed to the present unco-ordinated situation. There is need for Governor Shettima to initiate on his own an informal independent monitoring system.
This will afford him the opportunity of having undiluted view or true perception of things and provide a base for comparison of notes.
Izekor sent in this piece from Abuja