Nigeria on Wednesday marked three years free of endemic wild polio with health officials saying the nation’s progress in fighting the crippling viral disease could result in the whole of Africa being declared polio-free early next year.
According to health officials, the three-year milestone sets in motion a continent-wide process to ensure that all 47 countries of the World Health Organization’s African region have eradicated the virus.
Executive Director of the National primary health care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib in a press conference urged the country to ensure they do not lose sight of the huge amount of work left to be done before being certified polio free by relevant global organisations.
“Today, the 21st day of August 2019, Nigeria makes history having achieved three years without a case of wild polio virus, WPV. The last wild polio virus case was isolated in a child in Borno state on the 21st of August 2016,” he added.
The head of the primary health care agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said Nigeria had reached a “historic milestone”.
But it will be several months before the country can officially be labelled polio-free.
Polio is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours.
Children under five are the most vulnerable, but people can be fully protected with preventative vaccines.“We must remember that the battle is not over yet, we have to maintain our efforts and intensify them to make sure the historic gains are sustained and that polio-free certification is obtained for Nigeria in due time next year,’‘ said UNICEF Deputy Country Representative, Pernille Ironside.
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.
In addition, officials have said that political support and an injection of funds have also helped.
In 2018, there was a total of 33 polio cases confined to just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan.