Nigeria now has 94% of world’s polio cases
• ‘How fresh cases frustrate efforts to eradicate virus’
From FRED ITUA, Abuja
It is certainly not a record that anyone would be proud of. In fact, this is one of those issues that might prompt some to jettison their love for the fatherland. At a time that the dreaded disease, poliomyelitis, has been eradicated in all but three countries of the world, the disease is flourishing in some parts of Nigeria. In fact, right now, Nigeria has 94 per cent of polio cases in the entire world.
The remaining six per cent is shared by Pakistan and Afghanistan. And efforts of the present Goodluck Jonathan administration to ensure the eradication of polio by end of 2015 might have suffered a major blow, as new cases are being recorded in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and in the Northern states.
Two new cases have been reported in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while no fewer than 116 new cases have recently been reported across 11 states in the Northern region.
This is even as the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently came up with a policy that Nigerians, travelling abroad must show evidence of polio immunisation before leaving the shores of the country. According to WHO, this move has been initiated to reiterate the seriousness the world body places on the importance of eradicating the deadly polio virus in the country. Dr. Rilwan Mohammed, Executive Secretary of FCT Primary Healthcare Board and Secretary of the FCT Special Taskforce on the Polio Immunisation and Eradication, said 95 per cent of those resisting vaccines for their children were Muslims and resided in Northern states. He said this was largely responsible for the spread of the virus and inability of government to eradicate it in the country.
The suspected new cases of the polio virus discovered recently in the FCT involves a 23-month-old male child, Francis Ananayas, who hails from Gida Fadawa in Kuje Area Council. According to the parents of the child, Francis had four doses of oral polio vaccine, but no proof or evidence of immunisation card was tendered to support their claim.
About a fortnight ago, a case of the virus was recorded in Jahi village, a community in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). Dr. Rilwan noted that a case of weakness of limbs in a child of two years and six months, Yusuf Haruna, was reported to the board.
He recalled that during investigation in the area, similar symptoms were noticed in another child, prompting the authorities to send faecal samples from the suspected cases to Ibadan for test. He added that to ensure that all children in the area, which comprised all villages in Gwarinpa ward, were captured and inoculated against the virus, the board had received about 50,000 doses of vaccine from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to be used for the two-day mop-up immunisation exercise in the area.
Blaming the new polio cases on migrants, who had moved to the nation’s capital in search of greener pastures, Dr. Rilwan said: “The last case recorded in Dobi was from a migrant farmer from Minna, in Niger State, and the one we just got now is also from people, who migrated from Katsina State, one of the states with high polio prevalence. This latest case brings the number of reported cases of polio in the country this year to 112; 94 cases of type 1 and 18 cases of type 3 polio viruses.”
While noting that the FCT has so far attained about 80 per cent coverage of polio immunisation, Rilwan added that the administration was working out a strategy to carry out immunisation of children under five years in markets and motor parks across the territory, to ensure that all children not captured in routine immunisation would be immunised. He also stated that the FCT administration would mobilise law enforcement agencies to arrest all those who reject immunisation in the FCT forthwith. Said he: “Nigeria today remains the only country in the continent with polio cases.
We must find a way to stop it. We are scared that these migrants might take this virus to the Southern states and we must find a way to eradicate it. At the moment, 94 per cent of polio cases are from Nigeria while the remaining six per cent comes from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Most of the people spreading this virus come from the northern states. Traditional rulers must come on board to help us fight this; traditional rulers must educate their people.” On the part of the Federal Government as part of sustained efforts to eradicate polio, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) recently initiated polio Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) in eight high risk states and two neighbouring states, targeting 26 million children with Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV).
The states include Sokoto, Katsina, Yobe, Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Borno, Jigawa and Nasarawa. New cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) reported in the past two weeks have however raised the question whether Nigeria will be able to eradicate the virus on or before 2015. In the new report, Katsina, Kaduna and Kano states recorded one case each of WPV type one while Taraba and Yobe states recorded one case each of the WPV type three, bringing the total number of WPV cases in 2012 to 118, according to the WHO.
With 213 new cases of polio recorded worldwide in 2012 and Nigeria, accounting for more than 50 per cent of that figure, experts are scared that the drive by the Federal Government to eradicate the virus by 2015 might hit a dead end. This scepticism is further heightened by the refusal of some families in the northern states to allow their children go through the immunisation process. With Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria (PAN) yet to eradicate the virus, chances are high that Nigeria might remain the only country in the world with the polio virus by 2015.