By Hassan Zaggi
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, has disclosed that in an effort to sustain the polio-free status of Nigeria, his agency would continue to improve routine immunization to exceed and surpass historical performances.
At a press conference in Abuja on Thursday, Dr. Shuaib reiterated that his agency had since concluded plans to use the polio eradication structures, not only in transiting, but in helping to flatten the COVID-19 curve.
Already, he said, the NPHCDA had trained over 200,000 primary healthcare workers to support the fight against COVID-19 in partnership with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
“Since the day before yesterday, we have been celebrating the certification, but at the NPHCDA, we know that the work is not done yet. In the partnership, we know that the work is not yet done.
“We know that, yes, we must rest, but now we must work even harder to sustain the glory of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) eradication.”
While revealing that the NPHCDA has taken a new shape, the Executive Director said: “We will continue to work and key into the vision of the Ministers of Health, for a new PHC.
“A primary health care where people will go to the nearest places where they live and work and be treated with compassion, dignity and respect.
“There is a new down as NPHCDA and the commitment will be translated to the generation yet unborn.”
He applauded past leaders of the country including “all presidents who have been part of this struggle, all the ministers, all the Chief Executive Officers of NPHCDA, National Programme on Immunisation (NPI), all the staff of NPHCDA who have worked with all our donors and development partners in the last 30 years.
“You have made the difference and for me, it is an honour and privilege to stand here and speak on your behalf.
“I assure all of you that no matter what space you occupy, role you have played in the polio eradication journey, that in NPHCDA, working under the leadership of our Ministers, our governing board, we commit to sustaining the Wild Polio free situation, but beyond sustaining it, we are going to do so much more.”
Speaking, the Country Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, while commending Nigeria for attaining the WPV-free status, reiterated the need to be vigilant to prevent resurgence of the virus considering that the disease has not been eradicated globally.
“102 WPV cases have so far been reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan this year.
“Additionally, we are faced with the continued threat of vaccine derived polio viruses – 16 countries in the region are experiencing circulating vaccine derived polio virus outbreaks.
“Nigeria and the region can defeat cVDPVs and protect against WPV importation if all commit to increasing vaccination coverage and strengthening disease surveillance,” he said.
Dr Mulombo, however, reiterated the commitment of the WHO to support Nigeria to build on the great success achieved to continuing the effort to close immunity gaps through a strong routine immunization and primary health care system.
In his keynote address, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, insisted that Nigeria is not going to rest on its oars despite the polio free status because polio is not yet over in the African continent.
“As long as the polio virus is still active in the Asian region and the menace of the circulating vaccine derived polio virus remains in our continent, our surveillance system must remain sensitive and up to the certification standard.
“The National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) will continue to be active, to respond promptly to any emerging disease outbreak,” he said.
Ehanire further disclosed that the Federal Government, through NPCHDA, has mapped out various polio assets across the country and started deploying them for the purpose of other disease interventions.
He, therefore, called on state governors across the country to “support this effort and begin to implement the transition of the experienced polio human resources for Health, to other areas of the health sector, especially at Primary care level.”