By Hassan Zaggi
The African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication certification has concluded plans to commence field verification and reviewing documentation of interruption of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in Nigeria from Monday, next week, December 9.
This move followed the completion of three years without any reported case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in Nigeria.
The Coordinator, Polio Eradication Programme at World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Regional Office, Dr Pascal Mkanda, disclosed this at the 37th session of Expert Review Committee (ERC) on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization (RI) in Nigeria, in Abuja.
Nigeria is one of the remaining four countries in Africa that are yet to have documentation accepted for Polio Certification. The other countries include Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Cameroun.
He noted that “the ERC acknowledges the work done by the programme, especially by the frontline workers who continually work in very challenging situations.”
While urging the federal government and other relevant partners to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the fight against WPV, the expert warned that: “It is important that the Nigerian government and partners avoid any complacency that could jeopardize Nigeria’s removal from the list of polio-endemic countries and certification of wild polio virus interruption for the African Region”.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that while the ERC concurs with the Nigeria Programme that the transmission of WPV1 is unlikely, experts who attended the meeting, however, called on government to galvanize partnerships aimed at reaching children in inaccessible areas.
The ERC, however, expressed concern over issues of non-compliance in some communities in Northern Nigeria, especially in Sokoto state.
To address issues of non compliance identified, the ERC recommended that the programme collaborate with the military and take advantage of the dry season to accelerate implementation of reaching children in hard-to- reach and inaccessible areas.
“Given the rising cases of non-compliance, ERC recommends that the programme should fast track the roll-out of key messages, including engaging journalists to create awareness and to address the circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (cVDPV2) transmission in the context of zero WPV1 status in the country.
“The ERC further recommends that the programme continues the engagement of traditional, religious and community leaders to sustain gains on immunization”, Dr Mkanda noted.
Speaking on the recommendations, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, said: “The ERC is very important to us. It helps us to brainstorm and gives us the opportunity to do things many Nigerians never thought we could do.”
He applauded all the donors and development partners for working assiduously with the Nigerian Government in the fight against polio.
“In six-months-time, I am confident Nigeria will be removed from list of endemic countries, however, paralysis is paralysis, we need to ensure no child is ever paralyzed again, from any type of polio virus,” he reiterated.