By Danmaryam Zayamu
The process to certify Nigeria free from Wild Polio Virus (WPV) has commenced.
The Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for poliomyelitis eradication- the body responsible for conducting critical analysis and verify the accuracy of the certification documents submitted by the Federal Government is already in Nigeria for a two-week visit.
The body is already in the southern states to commence verification from December 9 to 20, 2019, and will also visit the northern states, from 2 to 13 March, 2020.
The ARCC has already accepted the documentation of 43 African countries as part of the process to certify the African region free from all types of wild polio virus, with only Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan are remaining.
According to the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib: “The ARCC has invited Nigeria to present its final documentation to receive a wild polio-free status in June 2020.
“In this light, the ARCC has planned two field verification visits. The first is to the southern states from 9 to 20 December, 2019, and the second is to the northern states, from 2 to 13 March 2020.”
Also speaking, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria Team Lead, Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), Dr Fiona Braka, explained that during the verification visit to Nigeria, 9 ARCC members will assess the strides made so far in the fight against polio and deliberate on key resolutions in view of Nigeria’s polio status.
“Having achieved the milestones of primary requirements, the ARCC will first review the complete documentation report of the interruption of wild polio virus type 1 and then proceed to conduct field verification visits to select states in the south of Nigeria.
“If the ARCC is satisfied with the national documentation and field verification after both visits in December 2019 and March 2020, the WHO African region could be certified to have eradicated polio by mid-2020,” Dr Braka reiterated.
It would be recalled that no wild polio virus has been detected anywhere in Africa since 2016.
This, findings indicated, stands in stark contrast to 1996, a year when wild poliovirus paralysed more than 75,000 children across every country on the continent.
The last wild poliovirus-caused paralysis was detected on 21 August, 2016 in Nigeria, while the last environment sample with traces of the wild polio virus was detected in Kaduna state from a sewage sample collected on 5 May 2014.
A statement by WHO revealed that the primary requirements for the Africa region’s certification as a polio free continent include that no wild poliovirus transmissions are detected for a minimum of three consecutive years in all countries of the region.
The region must have a high quality certification standard acute flaccid paralysis surveillance, a clinical symptom of poliomyelitis, in all countries for those three years.
Other considerations include that countries maintain high immunization coverage for oral polio vaccine, as well as maintaining a robust national polio outbreak preparedness and response plan and a functional National Polio Certification Committee.