Who certifies Nigeria polio-free

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Nigeria is in a celebratory mood as the World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that polio is no longer endemic in the country, leaving the devastating disease endemic in only two countries and bringing the world one major step closer to achieving this goal of ending polio for good.

“The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free.

“We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world,” WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan said in a statement published on UN website.

Since 1988, the UN agency said the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent.

At the time, more than 350,000 children were paralysed every year, in more than 125 endemic countries. Today, two countries remain which have never stopped endemic transmission of polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan, where there have been in 2015, 41 cases reported (32 in Pakistan, 9 in Afghanistan).

In its announcement today, WHO said Nigeria has made remarkable progress against polio, but continued vigilance is needed to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return.

Nigeria has not reported a case of wild poliovirus since 24 July 2014, and all laboratory data has confirmed that a full 12 months have passed without any new cases.

Immunization and surveillance activities must continue to rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus, the agency said, explaining that only after three years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the African continent will an official ”certification” of polio eradication be conducted at the regional level in Africa.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio on the planet, called the development a ”historic achievement” in global health.

As recently as 2012, WHO said Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.

“More than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of 5, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralysing disease,” the agency said.

Meanwhile, WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have congratulated Nigeria on being declared free of wild polio virus.

The global organisations equally hailed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, partners in Nigeria who helped the country achieve the feat; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, (GAVI) as well as Nigerian traditional and religious leaders and volunteer community mobilisers, describing the latter as foot soldiers who fought to free the children of Nigeria from the wild poliovirus.”

However, they said “this milestone is not the end of the job” and called on the country to strengthen its routine immunisation”, saying “all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.”

“WHO and UNICEF today congratulated Nigeria on being declared free of the wild poliovirus but stressed that achieving this milestone is not the end of the job – all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases. READ ALSO: As Nigeria celebrates Polio-free status, Faisal worried about suspension of immunization following Covid-19

“This is critical to significantly reduce avoidable mortality in Nigerian children under five years old keep polio permanently out of Nigeria, and ensure better health and well being for future generations.

“The UN agencies also congratulated fellow Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners in Nigeria who helped reach this achievement: Rotary International; the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI); as well as Nigerian traditional and religious leaders and volunteer community mobilisers – the latter, the foot soldiers who fought to free the children of Nigeria from the wild poliovirus, the agencies said in a statement.

“Dr Walter Kazadi Mulumbo, WHO Nigeria Country Representative, said,

“WHO rejoices with the people and government of Nigeria and acknowledges that wild polio-free certification is undoubtedly the greatest public health triumph in the annals of Nigeria and indeed Africa that will bequeath to posterity lessons learnt and best practices for addressing future public health interventions.”

“Both UN agencies expressed strong appreciation for the role played by all stakeholders, especially the commitment and support of the Nigerian government at all levels, development partners, donors, traditional and community leaders, health workers and caregivers.

“This milestone is a clarion call to urgently rededicate resources to stopping the transmission of all types of poliovirus, strengthening routine immunization to sustain the gains achieved – especially in high-risk areas and traditional polio sanctuaries – and maintaining high-quality surveillance,’’ said WHO’s country representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulumbo, in a statement

“It is a momentous achievement that calls for celebration. This historic achievement not only signifies the end of the wild poliovirus across the entire African continent but is also a significant springboard towards attaining global polio eradication.

“UNICEF joins Nigeria in celebrating this milestone – and congratulating Nigeria’s children, especially – but we must remember that the job is not over.

“All caregivers must continue to vaccinate their children against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, including polio. Religious and community leaders, as champions of wild poliovirus eradication, should continue to mobilize caregivers to vaccinate their children for all preventable diseases. Children need their help now more than ever.

“Not only is polio vaccination still crucial, but all routine vaccinations are also critical to children’s survival. We must all work together to strengthen routine immunisation services and ensure that all children under five receive all vaccines, including the polio vaccine.”

“This is not the time for Nigeria to take its foot off the accelerator. This is the time for Nigeria to strengthen its primary health care system, and give routine immunisation a vital boost.”

“UNICEF and WHO pledge to continue to support Nigeria to strengthen its primary healthcare system under the Primary Health Care Under One Roof (PHCUR) policy initiated by the Federal Government, including the goal to have at least one functional primary healthcare centre (PHC) in every ward in Nigeria.

“Nigeria attained wild polio-free status after meeting all the criteria for certification, which include three years of non-detection of any wild poliovirus case in the country. “Before the certification, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan were the only wild polio-endemic countries globally,” said UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Peter Hawkins

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