Following the giant strides Nigeria has recorded in the fight against polio virus in the country, the African Union (AU) is set to recognise the country’s success story at its 24th summit billed to take place in Addis Ababa this week.
According to reports, the AU is expected to set a new development agenda for its members, including holding a session on the continent’s effort towards taming the polio virus, a task Nigeria is seen to have performed tremendously.
The supervising Minister of Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, said in a statement ahead of the summit that one of the main themes of the summit, ‘The development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063,’ focuses on preparing Africa for its future, building upon the progress now underway and effectively learning lessons from the past.
According to Alhassan, “a polio-free Africa is one of the best legacies that the people of Africa, its leaders, and the AU can pass on to the next generation.
“In Nigeria, tremendous progress was achieved at the end of December 2014 with 87 per cent reduction of the Wild Polio Virus Type 1 (WPV1) burden and 78 per cent reduction in geographic spread of the virus. Wild Polio Virus Type 3 (WPV3) has not been reported in Nigeria for 23 months.
“The genetic clusters circulating in Nigeria have also declined from eight in 2013 to 1 in 2014 representing an 88 per cent reduction. This feat has been achieved as a result of over two year’s of meticulous improvement in the programme with award winning innovations.”
The minister explained that Nigeria fast tracked its effort on the fight against polio following the World Health Assembly declaration at its 65th session of May 2012 that polio eradication is a public health emergency of global significance.
“Nigeria continues to respond with an equal degree of urgency to stop the transmission by the end of 2014 by churning out streams of innovations and approaches to reach persistently missed children,” Alhassan said.
The minister’s statement came as the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Muhammed, said Nigeria is on the last stage of complete the eradication of the polio virus.
Muhammed also called for a better synergy among stakeholders to ensure that no new case is recorded in the next two years when Nigeria will be officially declared polio free.
UNICEF Representative to Nigeria, Jean Gough, rather warned against any form of complacency.
Speaking at a function in Abuja, Gough cautioned against focusing too much on the current success.
Gough further urged the government to put more efforts through effective routine immunisation in order to prevent new cases of the virus.
Nigeria, one of the countries that has never interrupted the transmission of indigenous polio virus, experienced a huge resurgence of polio cases in 2004 after the cessation of polio campaigns in some states in the northern part of the country due to religious misconceptions that the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) could contain anti-fertility drugs and Human Immune-deficiency Virus (HIV).
The Ministry of Health officials said “a 10-year battle with the resurgence of the paralysing disease, only six confirmed WPV1 in two states were recorded in 2014 compared to 50 cases in nine states for the same period in 2013, with the date of onset of the latest WPV case occurring on July 24, 2014, which means that the country has not recorded any new case in six months.”
The AU summit, according to the Deputy Director in the ministry, Ayo Asesugba, will review the progress so far, and as well offer assistance where it is most needed.
Adesugba stated that “the 24th African Union summit provides a unique and historic opportunity for the leaders of Africa, under the chairmanship of Mauritania, to express their strong commitment to deliver a polio-free continent for children of all future generations and encourage the last remaining countries and their leaders to redouble their efforts in the final stages of this long battle to consign polio to the history books.”
The 24th Africa Union summit will be held in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, from January 30 to 31 with all African Heads of Government expected to be in attendance.