Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries. It was a major milestone in the drive to eradicate polio after a year of not recording a single case of polio in any part of the country.
Previously, Nigeria had never completely interrupted transmission of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV). As of July 2012, the nation accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, but surprised the world through this landmark achievement.
Rapid progress against the crippling disease came largely as a result of the dedication of countless health workers and strong government commitment to reach every child with the polio vaccine.
Back in 1988, polio was widespread around the world, paralysing more than 1,000 children every day. Today, it has been reduced by more than 99 percent. The fact that Nigeria has now gone almost 500 days without any new case of polio is cheering news. By exiting the list of polio-endemic nations, Nigeria has brought the world one major step closer to achieving the global goal of polio eradication.
Eradicating polio would be one of the greatest achievements in human history which would have a positive impact on global health for generations to come.
With Nigeria’s new status as a polio-free country, efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by the Federal Government, World Health Organisation (WHO) Rotary International, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) must be stepped up even more.
It is essential to appreciate that the global fight to end polio – a disease which just under 30 years ago, paralyzed 350,000 children around the world annually –is in reality, a journey, not a destination.
Even in celebration, the momentum must be kept up. For Nigeria to be certified polio-free, no new cases must be detected over the next two years. To achieve this most important feat, decisive and deliberate measures must be taken.
Strengthened vaccination campaigns, especially in hard-to-reach and insecure areas, coupled with improved routine immunization backed by disease surveillance, must remain mandatory components of the agenda.
Our defeat of Ebola, eradication of guinea worm and near extermination of polio are concrete proofs that there is no challenge we cannot defeat with teamwork.