The World Health Organisation has said that Nigeria has gone three years without a case of polio, putting it on the brink of being declared free of the disease. The head of the primary health care agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria had reached a “historic milestone” saying that it is a dramatic change from 2012 when the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, the World Health Organization has said.
WHO stated that Nigeria has achieved the first criteria, by not recording any case of polio for three years but only some months left before the country can officially be labelled polio-free. In his remarks, Chairman of Nigeria’s polio committee, Dr Tunji Funsho, stated that WHO will need to make sure there is a robust surveillance system in Nigeria to be certain that there are no further cases of the wild polio virus, Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have witnessed a case of polio – in Borno state, in the north-east. Outside of Nigeria, the last case on the continent was in the Puntland region of Somalia, in 2014.
Insecurity in the north-east of Nigeria had hindered the polio vaccination programme, but success in fighting the Boko Haram militant group has been cited as one of the reasons behind getting polio under control. Also being a historic one for Africa, the newly re-appointed WHO Africa head Dr Matshidiso Moeti said the continent is “on the verge of an extraordinary public health achievement; one which will be our legacy to our children and children’s children”.
He cautioned that they must first be sure that every part of the continent has been reached and no cases have been missed. For now, there are renewed calls to vaccinate children against polio. It has taken the effort of thousands of volunteers who have risked their lives in some instances to deliver the much-needed vaccines to all parts of the continent. But “to end polio, at least 95% of children must be vaccinated, no matter where they live,” says WHO head of polio eradication Michel Zaffran.