Monday, October 26, 2015 9:14 pm
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday assured that Nigeria will not be complacent, but maintain its status as a polio free country. The President who spoke at the occasion to mark delisting of Nigeria as a polio endemic country by the World Health Organization, WHO in Abuja said his government was committed to completely eradicating the disease in 2017.
To further signify the country status as polio free, he also revealed that the presidential task force on the disease would be reconstituted to meet the target in 2017. “For 14 consecutive months, Nigeria has not recorded any new case of polio virus. This, as I had been briefed, is the first step towards certification of Nigeria as polio virus free country by WHO in the next two years. This achievement, I recall, also resonated at the 70th UN General Assembly when the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, mentioned it. I therefore commend WHO for their consistent stewardship in Global Health Security”, the President said.
While noting that Nigeria’s effort to eradicate polio started in 1998, the President noted that the disease has taken its toll on the human and material resources of Nigeria. But he added that his administration remains determined to achieve the collective goal of saving Nigerian children from further paralysis from polio. “I want to assure you that there will be no complacency, as we will maintain and improve on our surveillance system as well as raise the childhood population immunity against the polio virus to avoid any spread of the disease. The federal government will sustain the current momentum and we shall continue to regard this campaign as an emergency until we are declared polio free in the next two years.”
He added that government will sustain the needed funding for operations and vaccine procurement for the programme while the Presidential Task force on Polio Eradication will be reconstituted under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health to provide political direction and oversight in order to avoid complacency and relapse. The president also expressed his appreciation to WHO, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners that have consistently showed concern on the eradication of polio virus in Nigeria.
In her remarks, the Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, who was represented at the event by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, said the success of Nigeria at eradication of polio was due to the contributions of all relevant agencies.
“However, it is very clear that even though polio transmission in Nigeria has been interrupted, we still have a long road to travel towards its eradication. We must ensure that in the next two years no child is paralysed due to polio. Therefore, there is need for the efforts and investment to continue in order to sustain the gains; to ensure that at the state level, local government areas chairmen are fully involved in supporting polio campaigns; and to ensure timely disbursement of the state’s counterpart funds to guarantee good quality campaigns,” she said.
She also said the Country Cooperation Strategy between Nigeria and WHO has listed areas where the world body will provide technical supports for the country until end of 2019 while the WHO Regional office for Africa has articulated a five-year transformation agenda aimed at enhancing the performance of the WHO Secretariat in support of its member states.
While speaking at the occasion, Dr. Ado Muhammad, the head of Nigeria National Primary a Health Care Development Agency, in a presentation on polio eradication initiatives, outlined the challenges the country may face in its determination to completely eradicate polio.
According to him, Nigeria will need between $155 million in 2016 and $249 million in 2017 to achieve the objective to completely eradicate polio.