The crack in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) may affect the country’s efforts at eradicating polio by 2014, it was learnt yesterday.
Besides, the governors are said to be focusing more on forthcoming 2015 general elections to the detriment of the polio eradication campaign.
Chairman Experts Review Committee (ERC) on Polio Routine Immunization in Nigeria, Prof Oyewale Tomori made the assertion yesterday in Abuja at the opening of the 27th meeting of the experts meeting which include all stakeholders in the fight to eradicate polio in Nigeria.
The meeting holds every six months to review the progress, the challenges and also assess the risk in polio eradication programme.
The erudite professor of Virology noted that the commitment of the governors to the polio eradication campaign has seriously wane ever since the split.
Prof Oyewale who was responding to questions from journalists said: “I think what we saw in 2013 was because the governors were very well committed.
“I think commitment has waned; let’s be frank with each other. They’ve diverted their attention.
“You know all that happened with all the split in the Governors’ Forum. That has affected eradication. Unfortunately, we’ll not see the effect of this, until say next year.”
He explained that the vigor and the level of commitment put in by the governors now cannot be compared; stressing “the performance of what they did in 2012 was brought into 2013 to what it is. If you didn’t do well in 2013, we might begin to see. I think we are still seeing the effects of their commitments in 2012 and 2013. And, that is why we are not having polio now.
” However, remember, we are not in the high season yet. Come the raining season, in terms of May, June, July, if we overcome that, then, we’ll know that we are off the problem. But, what we do now, between now and the end of the year will determine whether we’ll eradicate polio at the right time.”
On the possibility of the country meeting the target, he said “If we don’t have any optimism in this country, we all will go home and forget what is going on. We have to continue to have the optimism that it will be done. And, I am sure, we will, because right now, there is a lot of a political activities going on, we will continue to remind the government that they’d made the mistake in the past, they should not make the mistake this time. And, it requires all of you to help us to get that message to government.
“The mistake was that there were certain activities that government was supposed to do like engaging their people, releasing fund for the programme; but, when election comes, all that is forgotten; because they divert all the money to other things. And, therefore, those issues they’ve taken care of like funding for vaccines; all that get pushed aside. We then go back to ( where we were before) without the vaccines, we are having more children every year, we are setting the ground for more cases to come.”
Speaking on what makes the 27th meeting different, Prof. Tomori said “the difference is that the situation has improved. Last time we came, we had more viruses, but now, we only had one case in the last six months or more. I think it is a very important and crucial time for this country. It is not that we’ve not been this close before, we’ve been very close.
“But, we missed the opportunity. And if we are not careful, we will miss the opportunity again. Like everybody has been saying, the election that is coming up, it had derailed us in the past, our desire is that this time around, it doesn’t derail us anymore so that Nigeria can get rid of polio and forget all these problems once and for all.
Also, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Mohammed, Nigeria has made good progress in the fight against polio.
He noted that this year, only one case of polio was reported.
He said, “Today, what became very clear is that Nigeria has made unprecedented progress that has never been seen in the history of public health in Nigeria. We’ve been able to reduce polio cases in Nigeria by 60 percent. We’ve also been able to confine the genetic cluster by almost 96 percent. We’ve also have been able to confine and restrict the virus. This year, only one case has been seen. It is in Dala Local Government of Kano state.
“Equally, worthy of note is that routine immunization has also improved significantly. For the very first time in the history of public health in Nigeria, both polio eradication and routine immunization are working very well. Routine immunization is about 84 percent administrative coverage. What it means is that not only that Nigeria is making progress with polio eradication; we are also making progress with routine immunization.”
World Health Organization )WHO) Country Rep, Dr Rui Gama Vaz in is remark said Nigeria has recorded great improvement in the last one year, but added that there is still a lot of work to be done
He said, “There is tremendous improvement since last year. By the 57 percent reduction in 2013 compared with 2012. And, for the first three months this year, it has been possible to reduce by 89 percent of polio cases. We have only one case at the moment.
“But, we believe that there is still a lot of work to be done. It is not because of one case; one case represents a lot in terms of the polio epidemic. What it needs is to continue to ensure we improve necessary quality of the campaign; we create demand for the community to participate, to understand why it is important. Here, an important aspect that we are going to discuss at this meeting is cross-border activities. Cameroun is one of the countries current infected, Equatorial Guinea. And, as you know, there is a lot population movement. So, we are working on cross-border activities with other Ministers of Health of those countries to ensure that when there is movement from one place to another, they are vaccinated. So, some of those issues, there is a very good hope that by the end of 2014, we’ll be able to interrupt polio in Nigeria. It is possible; we have the experience. Nigeria has just been certified as Guinea worm-free country. We have the capacity, we have the resources.”
As at 6th December, 2013, Nigeria had achieved 58% reduction in polio cases compared to the same period in 2012. There were 50 confirmed cases of children paralyzed by the wild polio virus in nine states compared to 121 cases in 13 in 2012.
Based on these achievements experts are optimistic that the country is on the right track to stop transmission of the virus by the end of 2014 and subsequently achieve total eradication.
While noting the tremendous challenges still facing the programme, the 26th Expert meeting specifically noted that given the intensity and focus