By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have congratulated Nigeria on being declared free of the wild poliovirus.
They however stressed that achieving this milestone is not the end of the job, saying all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.
UNICEF in a statement issued yesterday by Oluwatosin Akingbulu, its Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships, said the achievement is critical to significantly reduce avoidable mortality in Nigerian children under 5 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.
Dr Walter Kazadi Mulumbo, WHO Nigeria Country Representative, said, “WHO rejoices with the people and government of Nigeria and acknowledged 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 Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulumbo.
“It is a momentous achievement that calls for celebration,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria. “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,” said Peter Hawkins.
“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,’’ said Peter Hawkins.