As Nigeria Begins the process to be declared polio free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in few months, the federal and state governments have been urged to remain vigilant and ensure improved surveillance.
Since the last case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in 2016, Nigeria has not recorded any case and has therefore commenced the process to be certified a polio free nation by 2020.
Being the only polio-endemic country on the Africa continent and one of the three countries in the world, Nigeria is anxiously hoping to help Africa attain a polio free continent status in few months.
This has been described as a significant milestone for the polio eradication programme in the country and in the global community.
Despite this significant progress, Nigeria has been urged not to lose sight of the huge task ahead of the certification. the next six months towards evaluation of Nigerias' documentation are therefore most critical, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO),
The organisation also stressed that ending all forms of polio across the region remains an unfinished success story. Adding that low immunisation rates pose a major risk to other forms of polio virus outbreaks.
To prevent the resurgence of WPV and stop the spread of outbreaks, WHO Officer in Charge (OIC), Dr. Peter Clement, called for more political and financial support to the programme.
"High routine immunization coverage and quality surveillance remain most critical in the build up towards certification and post certification, to sustain the gains," said Clement.
However, WHO said that Nigeria's achievement of this critical milestone is a step toward certifying the entire WHO AFRO region wild polio-virus-free by mid-2020.
Speaking at the world press conference on 'three years without WPV in Nigeria', organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), recently in Abuja, Dr. Clement said "following the Nigeria three-year mark, the Africa Regional Commission for certification of Polio Eradication (ARCC) will begin rigorous process to confirm if each country in the region is wild polio free. Nigeria will submit it's final country data for evaluation in March 2020, provided here are no new wild polio cases. If the data confirms zero cases, the entire WHO AFRO region could receive wild polio free certification as soon as mid 2020."
The Executive Director/CEO, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in his address said it was "to mark this significant milestone, while ensuring that we do not lose sight of the huge amount of work that is left for us to do before we are certified polio-free by the relevant global organizations."
According to him, the achievement would certainly not have been possible without the novel strategies adopted in the consistent fight against polio and other vaccine preventable diseases.
Commending Nigeria also, the Country Director, Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, Nigeria, Dr. Paulin Basinga, said Nigeria arguably faced tough challenges, yet met these with novel strategies, strong domestic and global financing and the commitment at all levels.
She urged Nigeria to continue it's hard work to address remaining challenges especially by improved political commitment and domestic financing for health to improve routine immunisation coverage to ensure no child, anywhere in Nigeria ever die of vaccine-preventable diseases again.
Also speaking at the world press conference, the Founder, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), Sir Emeka Offor said "I encourage all of us to stay focused while we rejoice. Our surveillance and vigilance profile must be raised now. Our activities of advocacy, routine immunization and field supervision must continue with alacrity as we approach the final line."
Sir Emeka Offer, who is the Rotary Ambassador in Nigeria, however, expressed the commitment of his foundation to partner with relevant stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria is certified polio free in the next couple of months.
"At Sir Emeka Foundation, we have committed expertise, resources and time in support of this noble, worthy and humanitarian course. Our resolve is irrevocable, our determination strengthened as we look into the future to achieve the second milestone which is the certification of Nigeria and Africa as WPV free," he said.
He commended the Rotary International, World Health Organisation (WHO), the Nigerian government and other stakeholders who have contributed immensely in the fight against the WPV and ensuring that Nigeria gets to this final stage.
UNICEF, USAID and other partners in their goodwill messages, commended Nigeria's effort towards improved immunisation and polio eradication in the country.
But stakeholders said although the successes recorded are worthy of celebration, a lot still needed to be done so as to ensure that the country does not record another outbreak. "It is not over until it is over. Therefore, all those involved in this noble venture must not rest on their oars but sustained the work so as to ensure total end of this disease", Hajiya Rabiatu Haruna, a retired nurse, said.