Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator, Polio Eradication Programme, at World Health Organisation (WHO), Africa Regional Office, has commended the Nigerian Government over its achievements in the area of Polio eradication. Mkanda, however, advised that more work needed to be done to stop transmission of all types of polio viruses.
He made the recommendation on Wednesday, in Abuja, during the 37th Meeting of the Expert Review Committee (ERC), on Polio and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria. He acknowledged the work done by the programme, especially by the frontline workers who, he said, continued to work, even in very challenging situations. Making a presentation on behalf of ERC members, he assured Nigeria that if it got it right, Africa could be certified Polio-free soon, having achieved the milestone status of being wild polio-free for three years.
Mkanda said the African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC), for Polio Eradication Certification, would start conducting field verification and review of interruption of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) from Dec. 9. “If the ARCC is satisfied with the national documentation and field verification, the WHO African Region could be certified to have eradicated WPV by mid-2020.
“Nigeria is one of the remaining four countries in Africa including Central African Republic, South Sudan and Cameroun, that are yet to have documentation accepted for Polio Certification.’’ According to Mkanda, it is important for the Nigerian government and partners to avoid any complacency that can jeopardise Nigeria’s removal from the list of polio-endemic countries as the ERC meets periodically to evaluate progress made in ensuring a polio-free Nigeria.
The expert noted that the monitoring body also provided guidance to the government and development partners on best practices in routine immunisation in Nigeria. He added that the 37th ERC members who converged to deliberate on key decisions concerning polio eradication and routine immunisation strengthening in Nigeria, had identified critical gaps that should be bridged.
“This will help to maintain the present status towards polio certification. Experts are calling on government to galvanise partnerships aimed at reaching children in inaccessible areas, having identified that Nigeria’s polio resurgence in August 2016, was largely due to insecurity in the Northeast.
“Their collective agreement hinged on the firm belief that interrupting transmission of polio requires systematic processes, focused on reaching children in inaccessible areas, providing timely and adequate resources, as well as strengthening RI (Routine Immunization),” he said.
Mkanda said that preliminary recommendations from 37th ERC included that the programme collaborated with the military in taking advantage of the dry season to accelerate implementation of reaching children in hard-to-reach and inaccessible areas. “It also recommended 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 immunisation,’’ he said. NAN reports that the ERC members also debriefed the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, on their observations and recommendations.