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Published On: Thu, May 29th, 2014

Polio war: The good news!

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Islam Explained By Husain Zakariyya Yawale

Usamah ibn Shuraik narrated: “… ‘O Allah’s Messenger! Should we seek medical treatment for our illnesses?’ He replied: ‘Yes, you should seek medical treatment, because Allah, the Exalted, has let no disease exist without providing for its cure, except for one ailment, namely, old age’.”

[Tirmidhi Reported]

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. All Praise is due to Allah! We praise Him and we seek help from Him. We ask forgiveness from Him. We repent to Him; and we seek refuge in Him from our evils and bad deeds. Anyone who is guided by Allah is indeed guided; and anyone who has been left astray, will find no one to guide him. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah, the Only One without any partner; and I bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and final messenger to mankind. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon His last and final Apostle, his Household, his companions and all his followers till the end of time.

Health is wealth! That is to say health is very vital and critical to our individual and collective lives. There is virtually nothing to be achieved without good health. Islam on the other hand has special provision for health in general. A Muslim can live happily and complete without electricity, but can not and will never like to live where there is no water. Water is a very essential instrument of the religion of Islam. This is because Muslims are the biggest consumers of water.Without water, many of the Islamic ritualsand sacraments will suffer serious hindrances. So, had the Muslims acted with the provision of Islam on health, they would have been the healthiest nation on earth. By extension, they would have been in the forefront of fights against diseases, such as HIV/ AIDS, Poliomyelitis and all infectious or communicable diseases. Unfortunately from the current situations and conditions of Muslims around the world, the case is the reverse!

Today it is only Muslims and their communities especially in Asia and Africa are lagging behind in the attainment of the millennium goals on Primary Health Care (PHC)! This is indeed a very sad development despite the efforts and commitment byf many government, organizations and individuals. Here in Nigeria and particularly the northern partis not exempted from this ugly development.

In fact, the world has never been so closed to the total eradication of polio than it has ever been now! This was achieved because of the sustained vigour on vaccination efforts, especially in the three most endemic nations of the world.Polio cases are at the lowest level in history going by the recorded success in 2012 when the world launched Strategic Plan in 2010 called GPEI. Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has developed another product called Global Polio Emergency ActionPlan 2012-13. Its goal is to support transformational change leading to complete eradication in the remaining three polio-endemic nations of Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, all, unfortunately Muslim countries!

However, Nigeria, and most especially the northern part which is predominantly Muslims, has two unique characteristics. Firstly, the people very much rely upon their religious leaders on almost anythingto do with Western world. They always refer to them for clarification and guidance. The unfortunate and disastrous thing happens when the sheikh is not well informed or completely ignorant on the true nature of the problem at hand. Secondly, all northerners attached incredible importance, and accord respect to their traditional rulers. They listen to them more than their political leaders. Thus, the mistake that was done from the onset was the non-inclusion of these two very important institutions in the campaign for the eradication of polio. The different governments of the day undermined their importance and the influences they wield within their followers.

Though it was lately, yet it is not too late, the government realized the importance of Ulamas and traditional rulers in carrying along the populace in matters to do with their well-being. What is more interesting is the acceptance of these institutions to partner with both the federal government and all stakeholders in the gallant fight against polio virus. The religious leaders have resolved to help their followers benefit from the sustained campaigns both with the local and international agencies fighting the menace of poliomyelitis.

Thus, for the government to benefit from the inclusion of the traditional and religious leaders, it must make the following pursue these requirements:

1. Adequate financing

2. Sourcing of experienced staff

3. Prevention or reduction of duplication

4. More sensitizations

5. Widening the scope of interventions

6. Effective utilization of local staff during campaigns

The problem with poliomyelitis virus is that as long as there is one case anywhere in Nigeria, it means no place is safe anywhere. It goes without saying that as long as there is one case in any country; it means the world is not yet safe. Thus, eradicating polio has become everybody’s concern.

Indeed, it must be on record that the traditional rulers have done wonderfully in influencing their subjects, not by coercion or intimidation as was the case during the colonial days, but by persuasion and suasive sensitization. Many of them will be remembered by the history polio eradication as well as by the parents whose children were saved from disability or even death! The international communities will definitelyeulogize them for lending their weights for the benefit of their domains, and for the world consequently.

The Sultan of Sokoto, His eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, their Royal Highnesses Emir of Argungu Alhaji Sama’ila Muhammad Mera, Shehu of Bama Alhaji Kyari Umar El-Kanemi and Emir of Shonga Dr. Halliru Yahaya are worth mentioning for posterity, because of their active participations in all the campaigns, as well as for their persistent synergies and collaborations with all meaningful stakeholders.

Similarly, the lending of supports by the religious leaders of all the different Islamic organizations and sects of the Kadiriyyah, Tijjaniyyah, the FOMWAN and the Forum of Alarammas which was well coordinated and harmonized by Huseyn Zakaria, will not go in vain. After seeking the pleasure of Allah, their followers will always remember them in their prayers for what they contributed in sensitizing them to accept the polio vaccinations.

According to the recent publication in which more than 1100 people from 290 organizations consisting 140 countries have contributed to the development of the GVAP. In it the final version of the Global Vaccine Action Plan(GVAP) that was kicked off in 2011to last till2020 is a roadmap designed to prevent millions of deaths around the world through more equitable access to vaccines. The development of the plan was coordinated by the DoV Secretariat, formed by members of ISGlobal, PATH, and the Sabin Vaccine Institute, whose work finished in December 2012.

Endorsed by 194 countries at the World Health Assembly in May 2012, the GVAP reiterates the existing goals, sets new ones, outlines six more strategic objectives and associated actions, and provides an initial estimate of resource requirements and the expected return on investment covering the exercise. The stakeholders of this program stated above said, “the success of this ambitious global plan will be one of the most enduring legacies for today’s children and the generations who follow them”.

I will always remember to echo, to the hearing of all, my words at the global submit on polio in Abu Dhabi that the Nigerian Muslim leaders will sustain their collaborations with all stakeholders on polio to its grave!

In two recent one-day seminars I attended which was organized by the National Primary Health Care Development agency on inactivated polio Vaccine (IPV) introduction in Nigeria and the Da’awah Council meeting on the just concluded polio vaccination exercise, our hopes were raised. The good news was that since the beginning of this year 2014, only three cases of white polio were recorded; two from Tarauni of kano state and one from Gujba of Yobe state. If this glad tiding has anything to to show, it is the glaring indication that the war against polio globally will soon end!

It is thus, worth mentioning here for the purpose of record the efforts of World Health Organization, UNICEF, the GAVI Alliance, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ISGlobal, PATH, Traditional rulers, Ulamas and the Sabin Vaccine Institute in building a world where individuals and communities will be able to enjoy a life free from all types of preventable diseases, regardless of where they are born, who they are or where they live. It is hoped that this vision will be a reality by 2020!

Finally, I ask Allah to grant us our goals not only on the complete eradication of polio virus on the surface of the earth, but bear witness to a world free of all types of terrorism and all forms of injustice!

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