Nigeria: WHO, Nigeria's Strongest Partner in Fight Against Polio - Official

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been Nigeria's strongest partner in the fight against Polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases in the country, an official has said.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said this when he received the new WHO Nigeria Country Representative Walter Kazadi Mulombo in his office in Abuja.

According to a statement published on the WHO's website on Monday, the visit is part of the familiarization tour to Government parastatals and agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).

WHO is an agency whose primary role is to direct international health within the United Nation's system and to lead partners in global health responses.

Nigeria is on its way to be declared polio-free by August.

On 18 June, the independent African Regional Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication (ARCC) reviewed and accepted the complete national documentation of Nigeria, granting the country wild poliovirus-free status.

The determination is based on field verification visits to the country over the past year, with the final visit to Nigeria conducted in March.

During the visits, the ARCC conducted a thorough analysis of Nigeria's documentation and made field visits to states to validate programme key aspects, including polio surveillance, immunisation and laboratory capacity.

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.

The virus is transmitted from person-to-person, spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, through contaminated water or food and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through the administration of a simple and effective vaccine.

Polio certification

So far, the WHO Africa region has not been declared polio-free because of the last incident of wild polio detection in Nigeria in 2016.

The last wild poliovirus-caused paralysis was detected in August 2016 in Nigeria, while the last environment sample with traces of the wild poliovirus was detected in Kaduna State from a sewage sample collected in May 2014.

However, the African Region became eligible to be certified free of wild poliovirus in August 2019, after Nigeria, recorded no new cases of wild poliovirus for three consecutive years.

This is the requisite period for any country to be certified polio-free.

Vaccine-preventable diseases

Mr Shuaib said the country will not rest on its oars until high coverage for all vaccine-preventable diseases are addressed.

He noted that Nigeria recently achieved 70 per cent coverage in routine immunisation (RI) based on the 2019 SMART survey results, an indication that the priority of the agency to strengthen RI is on the right path to achieving success.

He said the feat would not have been possible without WHO's technical support and leadership.

In his response, Mr Mulombo acknowledged the strong collaboration between WHO and NPHCDA, which enabled WHO to provide the needed technical support towards the overall achievement of set priorities.

He restated that the government's vision and priorities for the revitalisation of PHC towards universal health coverage align perfectly with WHO's role.

"It was a pleasant coincidence that I arrived on the day of the acceptance of Nigeria's documentation for Polio-free status and assure you that we'll sustain the gains and further build on the achievements. For this to happen, we'll rely on NPHCDA's support," he said.

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