The World Health Organisation (WHO) has formally removed Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries, meaning the African continent is free of the crippling disease.
Nigeria has reported no cases of polio for 15 months, overcoming obstacles from Islamic extremists, who assassinated vaccinators, as well as rumours that the vaccine was a plot to sterilise Muslims.
Just 20 years ago, Nigeria was recording 1,000 polio cases a year – the highest in the world.
Two countries are left on the list of polio-endemic countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Rotary International last week donated $26.8 million to African countries to ensure the disease doesn’t return, including $6.9 million to Nigeria.
Also yesterday, the WHO expressed concern about lack of financial commitment by some state governments towards eradicating polio. Its Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, spoke yesterday as part of her assessment visit to Nigeria on polio eradication.
She said such neglect was capable of reversing the gains achieved in the fight to permanently eradicate the virus in the country.
She 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.”
Chan, who was represented by WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Rebecca Moet, added: “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.”