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Fresh outbreaks add to polio challenges

Though concerted efforts are being made in the country to kick polio out, recent cases of the disease in Nigeria has raised concern over the…

Though concerted efforts are being made in the country to kick polio out, recent cases of the disease in Nigeria has raised concern over the eradication of the crippling ailments in the country.

In Kebbi state, reports indicate that 15 new cases were recorded from December 2008 and till date in five local government areas. A health official at Malisa, Gwandu local government area of Kebbi State, confirmed that recently, two children were diagnosed with polio in the village.

However, the state government has assured that it will ensure the situation is checked in affected areas and the state as a whole.

It was against the backdrop of the emergence of new polio cases in the northern parts of Nigeria that the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, a few days ago, constituted a committee consisting of 14 traditional rulers to help the eradicate of the disease.

The Sultan of Sokoto, who has been a strong supporter of polio eradication efforts in the country, noted that the menace lingered because hitherto the traditional institution was not carried along in polio eradication initiatives and assured of the north’s commitment to polio eradication.

A couple of weeks ago, confidence was expressed from within and outside the country on the elimination of polio in Nigeria owing to  the appreciable progress noted to have been made in the fight against the disease.

Governments at all levels, non governmental organisations and UN bodies have heightened campaigns and efforts to eradicate the polio virus.

In February this year, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was in Nigeria to boost global efforts on polio eradication. He financed a 25million dollar agreement with the World Bank to support the purchase of over 100million doses of oral polio vaccines in Nigeria.

At the World Health Assembly held last month in Geneva, Switzerland   , the Nigerian Minister of Health, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, was reported to have said efforts to improve routine immunization performance are bearing modest dividends and that national routine OPV3 coverage increased from 47 per cent at the beginning of 2008 to 63 per cent in the first quarter of 2009, representing a 75 per cent increase within 12 months.

He also noted that  improved quality of immunization activities has impacted positively on population immunity, noting that the proportion of non-polio AFP cases aged 6-35 months reported never to have received a single dose of OPV declined from 15 per cent in 2006, to less than 5 per cent by the first quarter of 2009 while  the proportion of non-polio AFP cases aged 6-35 months who were reported to have received at least three doses of OPV, increased from 62 per cent in 2006 to 78 per cent by the first quarter of 2009.

Many have stressed the need to scale up vaccination efforts and ensure full implementation of eradication strategies.

 It is believed that once vaccine can be administered on every child who needs it, polio will be wiped out of the country.

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