Nigeria has gone three years without any case of the endemic wild polio with health officials saying the nation’s progress in fighting the crippling viral disease could result in the whole of Africa being declared polio-free early next year.
Africa’s last case of wild polio was recorded in Borno State in August 2016.
In a press conference to brief the media on Wednesday, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, acknowledged that Nigeria passing the three-year benchmark without a single wild polio virus case is a step forward to certifying the entire African region wild poliovirus-free. He however cautioned that the achievement is very fragile “one which we must delicately manage with cautious euphoria”
“This achievement would certainly not have been possible without the novel strategies adopted in the consistent fight against polio and other vaccine preventable diseases. We commend the strong domestic and global financing and the commitment of government at all levels,” he stated.
While speaking at the event, the World Health Organization Officer in Charge (OIC) for Nigeria, Dr Peter Clement, acknowledged the efforts of the Nigerian government, partners and the thousands of polio workers who worked for the success of the polio eradication programme in the country.
Nigeria will submit its final country data for evaluation in March 2020, provided there are no new wild polio cases. If the data confirms zero cases, the entire WHO AFRO region may receive wild polio-free certification as soon as mid-2020, leaving only one region out of six around the world (the Eastern Mediterranean region) where wild polio virus still exists.
“As long as polio virus still exists in any part of the world (as it currently does in Afghanistan and Pakistan), all children are at risk, therefore we must maintain the momentum towards regional and global certification,” warned Dr Clement.
Latest Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) figures show that there have been a total of 65 cases of wild polio worldwide so far in 2019 – 53 in Pakistan and 12 in Afghanistan.
Polio is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. Children under five are the most vulnerable, but people can be fully protected with preventative vaccines.