29 September 2012

Nigeria: The Resurgence of Polio

Photo: Leadership


Nigeria has consistently remained in the bad books of the civilised world following her failure to eliminate the dreaded polio disease, despite the support from the World Health Organisation, WHO, and other agencies. Polio is the short form for poliomyelitis, an acute infectious viral disease that affects especially children. Also called infantile paralysis, in its paralyptic form, the brain and spinal cord are involved, causing weakness, paralysis, and wasting muscle.

The sad end of this dangerous phenomenon is the truncated dream of the victims. The social implication is costly as most of the victims can hardly realise their potential in fending for themselves. In our environment, most of them become beggars. This is why the elimination of this disease becomes a necessity. Interestingly, the WHO had set a target for all countries of the world to eliminate polio. By 2011 only Nigeria and Bangladesh were yet to win the elimination war.

The recent report of 88 cases in 10 states in the northern part of the country suggests that our war against polio is almost becoming a mirage. The assistant director-general of the WHO, polio emergency and country collaboration, Dr Bruce Alyward, while conveying the position of the organisation, said Nigeria was not on track to achieve its polio eradication goal on time.

Alyward, who spoke in Abuja on September 11, at the 24th meeting of the Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria, said this is now the only country in the world to record polio cases consistently in the past two years and the only one with increasing cases of the virus which, he said, constitutes a real and growing international health risk.

In consonance with the WHO, we suggest that the fight against this disease must be intensified. The immunisation scheme should be invigorated all over the country, especially in the core northern states. The three tiers of government should play their roles.

Governors of the prevalent states should be pragmatic. The local governments must not wait to be told that they are meant to be closest to the people at the grass roots. Local government chairmen must participate in the sensitisation of the people to the importance of immunisation.

Religious leaders and traditional rulers should also be fully integrated in the campaign at every given opportunity, to make the programme succeed. Above all, husbands and fathers should be convinced to be in the vanguard of eliminating this debilitating virus. Their participation becomes necessary because of the claim that most men in the core northern states can decree whether or not a wife should take a child to hospital. Eliminating polio is important for the well-being of our children and the image of our country.

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