THE 2013 DEADLINE FOR POLIO
Buoyed by successes recorded so far in the fight against the transmission of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) throughout the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen 2013 as the target date to end the scourge worldwide using the new Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010-2012.
The plan provides basic epidemiological information on milestones and major indicators as well as aggressive, time-bound programme of work aimed at interrupting WPV by 2013.
In Nigeria, efforts are being intensified to ensure that this target is met. Already, a 10-day programme tagged Supplementary Polio Immunisation Activities (SIAs), targeted at 20 million under-five children with over 22 million bivalent oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV) has begun in 19 high-risk Northern states.
The states covered by the exercise are Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Benue, Sokoto, Nasarawa, and Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Others include Niger, Plateau, Gombe, Jigawa, Yobe, Kebbi, Katsina, Taraba, Zamfara and Kwara.
The SIAs is part of synchronized immunization campaigns in some West African countries, namely Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Benin Republic, Liberia, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire. Also, there will be a three-country round of immunization in countries bordering northern and western Nigeria this month, using bOPV.
In order to ensure the success of the campaign, the chairmen of high-risk local government areas have pledged to provide active leadership to polio eradication efforts. In this wise, they will allocate adequate human and financial resources to the polio immunization activities, including mop-up plans and feedback to their respective governors.
We commend the WHO, United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Rotary International, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention and other development agencies for their strident efforts to kick out polio, worldwide. The global health body's move to stop the transmission of the wild polio virus by 2013 is apt and welcome. The goal is realisable if all countries will muster adequate human and material resources to combat the scourge. This attempt to wipe out polio should be supported by all countries, especially those still habouring the deadly virus.
Till date, four countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – are still harbouring the disease, which attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis. Therefore, we call on the health authorities of these polio-endemic countries to work in tandem with officials of WHO and other donor agencies to ensure that their countries are polio-free by 2013. They should intensify their National Immunization Days together with mop-up operations to see that the initiative succeeds.
Let all tiers of government work in concert to see that polio is wiped out of Nigeria. All health-related Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) should regard themselves as relevant partners in the effort to achieve this laudable goal. Between now and 2013, these agencies should intensify efforts to remove all cultural and religious barriers to the attainment of the objective.
Government should mount vigorous media campaigns in English, Pidgin and local languages to sensitize the public on the programme. Let our scientists also revive local vaccine production so that we can complement the efforts of global partners in this regard.
Since this is a global initiative, no country should pull the rest of the world back. In other words, every country must ensure that the initiative succeeds. WHO should pay special attention to the four countries that still have reservoir of the virus. That is the only way to ensure that polio is wiped out.