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Polio: Getting certified is not the end of the job – UNICEF

 In 2020, it was jubilation for Nigeria and Africa in general as Nigeria was certified Wild Polio Virus (WPV) free by the World Health Organisation…

 In 2020, it was jubilation for Nigeria and Africa in general as Nigeria was certified Wild Polio Virus (WPV) free by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, experts have warned that getting certified is not the end of the job but rather an opportunity to stop the transmission of all poliovirus through strengthening Routine Immunization (RI) and also sustain the tempo.

They said this is important with the backdrop of Circulating vaccine – derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2). Findings by experts have shown that in 2023 there was an increase in the number of cVPD2 cases across the country with five states of Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano contributing to about 88% that is 211 cases out of the 238 traced cases.

The data also shows that in the three states of Kano, Jigawa and Katsina that are being supported by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Kano Field Office there are over 556,750 children who have not received one single dose of vaccination that they should have,

According to Officer-in-Charge, UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Mr Michael Banda, the issue of having many children not being immunised at all is indeed a worrisome development that could pose a threat to the already celebrated success in the country. “Killing the snake in your back-yard without destroying the eggs it laid can still lead to more new born snakes in the house. So to continue to keep Nigeria free of polio, routine vaccination campaigns have to be maintained and sustained.

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“It is a common understanding that getting certified is not the end of the job, but rather an opportunity to stop the transmission of all poliovirus through strengthening RI and also sustain the tempo,” he said.

In view of this development, experts and specialists in polio eradication campaign in collaboration with UNICEF, Kano State government and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Kano organised a one-day media briefing and orientation on polio eradication campaign and during the briefing UNICEF communications specialist in Kano Office, Mr Samuel Kaalu stated that the media’s role in ensuring positive development in the nation can’t be underrated as they can set agenda for communities, authorities as well as government in ensuring a healthy and disease free communities.

He explained that there is a need to maintain and sustain the 2020’s achievement attained through the collaborative effort of the Nigerian government with support from UNICEF, Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI), the media and Rotary International among others.

Similarly, the Director General, Kano State Primary Healthcare Management Bird Dr Mohammed Nasir Mahmoud, revealed that Kano State government will not relent in its effort to ensure effective and functional Primary Healthcare facilities in the state for effective RI.

He further explained that it is very important to protect the future by protecting the children as polio mainly affects children.  “Poliomyelitis mainly affects children of less than five years of age and one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralyzed, usually 5 to10% dies” he revealed.

He added that it is indeed a joyful thing to note that cases due to wild polio virus have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries, to just two endemic countries as of October 2023 stressing that the issue of children not accessing immunization should be taken seriously to avert a reverse in the set achievement.

“As long as a single child remains infected, children in the whole country are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in a global resurgence of the disease, hence the need to strengthen RI,” he said.

Similarly, UNICEF behavioural change specialist, Dr Ogu Enemaku, revealed that media professionals, journalists have to engage with communities during outbreaks, according to him that needs to be done with a high sense of accountability and responsibility, using some guidelines on how to do it ethically and professionally.


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