The protracted Boko Haram insurgency in the North East might frustrate efforts to completely eradicate polio from Nigeria.Rotary International polio plus committee chair, Michael McGovern, expressed this concern when he led a team for immunisation at the Rumuodumaya model health centre in Port Harcourt, Rivers State yesterday.
McGovern observed that Nigeria has worked so hard to eradicate polio especially as it has not seen a case in over a full year now. He however, expressed concern that all the efforts put into ensure that the country is rid of polio might be jeopardised by the Boko Haram conflict which has rendered some children inaccessible for immunisation. According to him, "We still have some concern up in the far North Eastern part of the country that there may be children who are inaccessible".
He expressed delight that many of the children once trapped in the conflict engulfed areas of the North East are now accessible. Many mothers, he pointed out are bringing their children to be vaccinated in areas where the Nigerian security agencies have repel the insurgents.
"The North East, everyone understands there has been some conflict there and in any part of the world where there has been conflict, it is inevitable that things like vaccine will take a back seat. But the good news is that all the parties seems to be working together now to ensure that the vaccines are delivered and they are creating safe zones in order for that to happen" said McGovern.
The polio plus committee chair said it was really inspirational to see the work that has been done here in Nigeria by the Rotarians; the various levels of government, health workers, mothers and fathers who are wiling to bring their children to get the polio drug.
McGovern noted that in many parts of many countries around the world, it has been challenging over the years to reach people in dire need to medical attention due to similar conflict Nigeria is faced with in the North East. He observed that great progress has been made in Borno State and commended everyone that has played a role in ensuring that children in need of polio vaccination are accessible.
"We are very pleased with the government of Borno and that that they are working very closely with the national government, with everyone involved to make sure that those kids receive polio drugs. We are confident that the progress we have made in Nigeria will continue to be made and with everyone working together we will soon see not only a polio free Nigeria, but a polio free work" he said.
He explained that he was in the country to thank the Rotarians who are working so hard to eradicate polio and to hear from the government their different concerns in terms of how the progress is going. Secondly, he said there are a lot of people who have made tremendous investment in the global campaign to end polio and it is important to see that investment is properly utilised.
Rivers State deputy governor, Mrs. Ipalibo Banigo, lauded Rotary International for investing tremendous financial resources, advocacy and countless volunteer service in the past thirty years that has led to over 99 percent reduction reported polio cases.
She expressed delight that Nigeria has not recorded any incident of polio in a year, which according is a clear indicator that the country was almost at the verge of total eradication of polio.
The deputy governor said the government of Rivers state remains committed to ensure that polio is kicked out of the State permanently and every effort was also being made to strengthen the primary health services and make sure that no child is left out.