Nigeria: WHO a Veritable Partner in Achieving Nigeria's Polio-Free Status, ED of Nphcda Affirms

Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom.

Abuja — The Executive Director (ED) of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib says, "World Health Organization (WHO) has been the government's strongest partner in the fight against Polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases in Nigeria."

He made the assertion when he received the new WHO Nigeria Country Representative (WR), Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo in his office in Abuja as part of the WR's familiarization tour to Government parastatals and agencies under the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).

On 18 June, 2020, 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 2020. During the visits, the ARCC conducted a thorough analysis of Nigeria's documentation and conducted field visits to states to validate program key aspects including polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity.

Furthermore, the ED also assured the WR that the country will not rest on its oars until high coverage for all vaccine preventable diseases are addressed. The ED informed the WR that Nigeria recently achieved 70% coverage in routine immunization (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 alluded that the feat will not have been possible without WHO's technical support and leadership.

In conclusion, the ED and some Directors of the Agency who acknowledged Dr Mulombo's impressive résumé, mentioned that his pedigree precedes him and therefore, expect him to make a positive impact on the health of all Nigerians.

The NPHCDA is a parastatal of Nigeria's FMOH with the mandate to control preventable diseases, improve access to basic health services and improve quality of care. The agency achieves its goals by providing support to the implementation of the National Health Policy and mobilizing resources for the strengthening of primary health care (PHC) among others.

In his response, Dr Mulombo acknowledged the strong collaboration between WHO and NPHCDA, which enabled WHO to provide the needed technical support towards overall achievement of set priorities. He restated that the government vision and priorities for revitalization of PHC towards universal health coverage, aligns perfectively with WHO's role. The WR also mentioned that generally, Nigeria's priorities are in tandem with those of WHO Thirteenth General Program of Work and its triple billions targets.

He further highlighted that "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."

The ED and WR had in separate remarks acknowledged the strong leadership that Dr Fiona Braka provided to the government, especially for Polio eradication and response to COVID-19 response as member of the Presidential Task Force, as she held forth the mantle of WHO leadership from March-July 2020 as the Officer in Charge.

Key Programme Directors of NPHCDA and WHO Cluster Leads witnessed the inaugural meeting and first of many interactions between the WR and ED.

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