The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally delisted Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries.
This is coming after a period of 15 consecutive months without any case of polio virus infection in Nigeria.
WHO Regional Director in Nigeria, Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, presenting the certificate of the country’s freedom from the disease to President Muhammadu Buhari on behalf of the Director-General, Margaret Chan, at the State House Abuja yesterday, said:
“Lately, there has been growing concern among partners that the financial commitment at the state level appears to be declining and I hope it is not because we have achieved this landmark. Some states did not release funds for the recent vaccination rounds and we know that this will negatively affect the quality of the programme.
“I would request and encourage federal and state governments to continue meeting the financial commitments to sustain the momentum at polio eradication efforts. We have come a long way and we must until next two years when the country will have been certified free and we can turn attention to other things.”
The certificate is with a provision that if the current efforts were sustained till 2017, Nigeria will be completely de-listed from among polio infected countries of the world.
Buhari, receiving the certificate with joy, vowed that the new status will be maintained, adding that his government was committed to the complete eradication of the disease in 2017.
He said: “It is with great pleasure that I receive you and your team today on this very happy event,marking more than a year in which no polio case was reported in our country.
“For 14 consecutive months, Nigeria has not recorded any new case of polio virus. This, as I hadbeen briefed, is the first step towards certification of Nigeria as polio virus free country by WHO in the next two years.
“This achievement, I recall, also resonated at the 70th UN General Assembly when the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Margaret Chan, mentioned it. I therefore commend WHO for their consistent stewardship in Global Health Security.
“As you are aware, our efforts to eradicate this crippling disease started in 1998. It has taken a lot of toll on our country in terms of human and material resources. We are however not relenting as we are determined to achieve our collective goal of saving our children from further paralysis from polio.
“I want to assure you that there will be no complacency, as we will maintain and improve on our surveillance system as well as raise the childhood population immunity against the polio virus to avoid any spread of the disease.
“I would like to reiterate the federal government’s commitment towards the achievement of a polio free Nigeria in 2017. The Government will sustain the needed funding for operations and vaccine procurement for the programme.
“Also, the Presidential Task force on Polio Eradication will be reconstituted under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health to provide political direction and oversight in order to avoid complacency and relapse.
“I would like to place on record my recommendation for the vaccinators, community mobilizers, partners, parents and caregivers who have supported the polio eradication initiative of Government through the years.
“I would like to commend the support of our traditional and religious leaders who have contributed immensely to the polio eradication efforts. By the same token we thank development partners, particularly WHO, UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, US-CDC, Rotary International, and a host of others who contributed financially and materially to the over-all efforts”, he said.