In the first few years of a child’s life, there are vaccines that the child must take in order to be immune to certain diseases. One of these diseases is polio. Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. The virus spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s brain and spinal cord, causing paralysis, which is a situation where a person cannot move parts of the body.
This disease is very dangerous, especially for children who are unvaccinated or not up to date with their immunization. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in 200 infections leads to permanent paralysis. Among those paralyzed, five to ten percent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. Since 1988, cases caused by wild poliovirus have decreased by over 99 percent. But as long as at least a child is still infected, children all over the world are at a risk of contracting the sickness.
Stakeholders are concerned about the situation.
Failure to eradicate it could result in a global resurgence of the disease. Although the United Nations has said that its incidence in Nigeria is no longer endemic, the organization has said that 51 new cases of Circulating Variant Polio Virus (cVPV2) have been detected in Nigeria from January to August 13 this year, and the North West zone accounts for 92 percent of the new cases. A total of 47 cases are from states in the North West zone facing security challenges.
These cases span 15 local government areas (LGA). The situation has now become a major concern for all stakeholders in the health sector. WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, on Thursday, August 17, 2023, disclosed this during a strategic meeting in Kaduna State organized by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the Sultan Foundation for traditional leaders of inaccessible communities in the North West zone. The meeting with traditional leaders of inaccessible areas in six states in the North West zone of Kaduna, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, and Kano States was to further strengthen the collaboration with major stakeholders in the region in an effort to improve access to primary health care services.
Insecurity is a catalyst for the new cases in the region.
Mulombo said that a majority of the outbreaks were from states facing security challenges in the region, causing setbacks to the country’s attainment of universal health coverage. The protracted security challenges in the North West zone, which was heightened by bandits and kidnappers, have led to the breakdown of a health system already experiencing years of neglect and underfunding, affecting the effective delivery of health services, including routine immunization for children. Basically, residents of this region are not only cut off from healthcare services but also scared to seek it far away from their communities.
Among the dignitaries present at the meeting include the Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar; the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, and representatives of WHO and UNICEF. While addressing the traditional rulers, the WHO country representative lamented how insecurity has hindered access to health services in the North West zone, leading to a high rate of maternal and infant mortality in the zone.
NPHCDA committed to making Nigeria polio-free.
For his part, the Sultan of Sokoto condemned the non-implementation of strategies by policymakers in the nation’s health sector. While states and the traditional institution are expected to play a pivotal role in enhancing universal health coverage, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency said the agency and the Federal Ministry of Health remained steadfast in their objectives of making the country polio-free. Meanwhile, the WHO had already declared that the disease is no longer endemic in the country. At the time of the report, Nigeria had not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014, and all laboratory data confirmed that a full 12 months had passed without any new cases.
United Nations Africa Renewal: Website