The World Health Organization has announced that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria. This is the first time that Nigeria has interrupted transmission of wild poliovirus, bringing the country and the African region closer than ever to being certified polio-free.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio, called this a ‘historic achievement’ in global health.
According to this report announced yesterday at a meeting of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in New York, Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014, and all laboratory data have confirmed 12 months without any new cases despite the fact that in 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.
This success has been attributed to a concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers with more than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of five years, to ensure that no child suffers from this paralysing disease.
While celebrating this victory, Nigeria was advised to continued vigilance to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return but continue immunization and surveillance activities which rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization said the outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free and asked that all must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world.
Dr Ado Muhammad, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Nigeria said Nigerians are proud today because with local innovation and national persistence, polio had been beaten and affirmed that vigilance and efforts will continue in order to keep Nigeria polio-free.
While congratulating everyone, particularly political, religious and community leaders in Nigeria and across Africa, for reaching a year without cases of wild polio, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said stopping polio in Nigeria has been a clear example that political engagement, strong partnerships and community engagement are the engines that drive the momentum of public health programmes, enabling them to achieve great things.
Dr Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Chairman of the Polio Oversight Board said this is a clear example of success under very difficult circumstances which shows polio can be eradicated if proven strategies are fully implemented. “Combined with the news of the eradication of type 2 wild polio virus last week, we are moving decisively toward ending a disease that has paralyzed tens of millions of children. In this final mile, we must remain committed to providing the resources and the support to the front lines to make this worthy goal a reality.” He added.
Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF also said the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries is a major victory for Nigeria’s children saying that it is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the Government of Nigeria, local leaders, and front line workers and it is proof positive that if we work together in partnership to reach every community and immunize every child, we can finish the job of eradicating this evil disease everywhere, once and for all.