Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria's Long Way to Polio Eradication

A recent UNICEF report said that "the proportion of missed children remains high in some high-risk states" in the country. These are children that missed being immunized against the deadly disease, polio.

The world body said: "Nigeria had witnessed a 95 per cent decline in the number of polio cases in 2010 and was very close to stopping the transmission of the wild polio virus. However, as at July 20, 2012, Nigeria has recorded 57 new cases of wild polio virus in 10 states compared to 25 cases during the same period in 2011."

The increase in the number of new cases of polio across the country has become a source of worry, which both the Federal and state governments are expected to tackle to achieve a zero-level of polio status.

However, concerted efforts to completely wipe out polio from Katsina State, or at least, stop the transmission, seem to be ineffective with the recent discovery of nine new cases in five LGAs of Mani, Maiadua, Batsari, Ingawa and Sandamu in the state. The latest being that of a two-year-old girl at Karkarku village in Sandamu LGA.

Disturbed by the recorded cases, Katsina State Government has urged local government chairmen to rise to the challenge of combating polio in their localities by ensuring that no new cases are recorded or risk being crippled politically.

The Governor, Ibrahim Shehu Shema, who gave the charge, said "if we see new cases of polio in any local government council, the chairman will have political polio," obviously threatening to ensure an end to the political career of such council chairman.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Ahmed Muhammed Qabbasiyu, told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that the State Task Force on Polio Eradication, which he is a member, was aware of the reported cases of missed children and non-compliance, but said "our people have been trained to go back in the case of missed children to ensure each child is captured."

Since 2009, Niger State has not recorded any case of wild polio virus until early this year when a case was recorded in Mariga LGA of the state, around a border town with Zamfara State.

The State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ibrahim Babamini Sule, said the family where the only wild polio virus in three years was recorded was on a transit from Zamfara to Niger State. He said the family had gone back to Zamfara.

Dr. Sule noted that almost all the states that Niger State shares boundary with were high-risk states, as new cases were being discovered in the states since the beginning of the year.

Consequently, he said for Niger State to maintain her polio free status, immunisation exercises would be carried out on those entering the state.

In Kaduna, the recent statement by President Goodluck Jonathan on child spacing did not help the fight against polio, as many misinterpreted the massage, especially the nomads who shied away from the exercise, and as a result, prevented health workers from immunising their children.

The Chairman, Action Committee on Immunization in Kaduna State, and also Secretary of the task force, Alhaji Mustapha Jumare, however assured that the vaccines do not contain anything to do with family planning. He disclosed that there was no new polio virus recorded in the state, except the nine cases between January and June, this year. He however stated that there were a lot more Fulani settlements that were not visited earlier.

However, Bauchi State has been reported to have recorded two cases of the deadly disease, although the state had recorded zero case of polio for more than two years. LEADERSHIP SUNDAY gathered that the two cases were recorded recently in Gamawa LGA of the state.

The immediate past chairman of BSPHDA, Dr. Muhammad Musa Dambam, however, declared that in the last 24 months, the state had recorded zero rate of polio case.

Dr. Dambam disclosed that Bauchi State came second among the states that were affected with polio cases in 2009, but the good news was that out of the 24 new cases of polio recorded this year, the state was free of it in the last 20 months.

Also in the western part of the country, Ondo State was, until recently, a polio free state. But the state is now at 99.8 per cent status, with the report of a case few years ago. The state has recently flagged-off the third-round sensitization campaign on Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) across the 18 LGAs in the state.

Governor Olusegun Mimiko recently stressed that his administration had already introduced free health programmes for children under five years and pregnant women. The governor also disclosed that an ultramodern cold chain store in Akure would soon be ready for commissioning, adding that the state government had acquired 100 tricycle ambulances meant to enhance immunization activities and mobilize the people for the exercise with a view to ensuring immunization coverage of every ward in the state.

Also in compliance with the policy of Governor Abiola Ajimobi-led administration on health, the Oyo State Government recently took a pro-active measure to stem the tide of polio disease in the state.

Precisely in May and part of June, this year, the State Ministry of Health embarked on sensitization of the public through the state electronic media on the essence of making their children between ages one to five available for immunization to curb polio and other diseases.

LEADERSHIP SUNDAY reliably gathered that immunization was carried out in the 33 LGAs and the turnout, according to reports, was very encouraging.

And as part of Osun State Government's six integral action plans to restore the healthy living of her people, the state government has reiterated its commitment to the good healthcare delivery, particularly in stamping out polio from the state. Investigation by LEADERSHIP SUNDAY across the state revealed that the state has been experiencing low polio cases because of the pro-active measures of the present administration to put the disease under control.

Speaking with LEADER SUNDAY in Osogbo, the State Commissioner for Health, Dr. (Mrs.) Temitope Ilori, said Governor Rauf Aregbesola-led administration has been working in tandem with the positive national objectives of the Federal Government on its effort to eradicate polio in the country.

Also in Ekiti State, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Olusola Fasubaa, affirmed that the state is polio free. Fasubaa told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Ado-Ekiti that no incidence of polio has been recorded in the state in the last 16 years. He said the state was able to achieve this through its adherence to national immunization strategies against polio.

On the issue of when polio immunization takes place, Fasubaa disclosed that the vaccine is administered on daily basis in the state, as every child is given the vaccine at birth (OP1) and the subsequent ones, OP2 and OP3, as indicated in the child's card.

In Ogun State, due to the premium it places on the primary health care delivery and its conviction that preventive medication is the best means to eradicate health related problems; the state has since 2009 remained the best state in the South-West in polio eradication. The state, in spite of sharing borders with Republic of Benin and other states that are prone to the scourge, has been able to curtail the scourge.

According to the NPHCDA boss, Dr. Ado Muhammed, Ogun State rating could be attributed to the pragmatic approach of Governor Ibikunle Amosun in the provision of effective and qualitative healthcare services, especially for children below age five on eradication of poliomyelitis and other childhood killer diseases.

Statistics also showed that Ogun State had always surpassed the 80 per cent immunization coverage, recommended by the Federal Government, with drastic reduction in the number of unimmunized children across the state.

In Anambra State, in the eastern part of the country, there have been no reported cases of polio in the last six years. The Director of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Dr. Chukwudi Okoye, said the feat had been achieved through constant media campaigns and diligent and routine immunization of children in the state.

Okoye stated that the immunization had also come with its own trouble as most times, staff sent into the field were rejected by parents who refused to have their children immunized, sometimes, as a result of ignorance based on faith.

He added that there is a surveillance team in the state that penetrates every nook and cranny to ensure that cases of polio are reported, and that once such is found, the Federal Government would be notified.

Ebonyi State remains one of the states that have achieved polio-free status. The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sunday Nwangele, stated this during an interview with LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Abakaliki. He said that no less than 513,690 children received polio immunization in the second round of the National Immunization Plus Days between March and April, this year.

Dr. Nwangele disclosed that LGA chairmen and development centre coordinators are usually enjoined to ensure the success of the exercise in their domains as they are usually made to understand that the responsibility for the success or failure of the exercise in their areas was on them.

In Enugu, the state Immunization Officer, Dr, Uche Okenwa told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY that cases of polio have not been recorded in the Coal City State in the last two years.

Dr. Okenwa said the state governor provided logistics that helped the state to organize many polio awareness campaigns, adding that the governor also provided logistics for routine immunization activities.

Also, the Imo State Government has attributed the successes recorded in the eradication of polio in the state to the huge funds allocated to combat the disease in the state, as well as aggressive enlightenment of women in the state.

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Obi Njoku, disclosed to LEADERSHIP SUNDAY in Owerri that the state government places much emphasis on health related issues, adding that an initiative of the governor had helped in the enlightment of women in the rural areas.

According to Njoku, Imo State would continue to rank among the states in the country devoid of polio, especially as the state government is planning on more pro-active measures to rollback the disease.

It would be recalled that the state has been regarded as one that has not recorded any case of the disease by the Federal Ministry of Health in the last two years.

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