Bill Gates hopeful Nigeria will eradicate polio in 2017

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it is hopeful that polio will be eradicated from Nigeria this year.

Dr Mairo Mandara, Country Representative of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says the eradication of polio in Nigeria will be the foundation’s greatest achievement, as she commended the efforts being undertaken to ensure all children are vaccinated against the disease that cripples children mostly under the age of 5.

We are going to kick polio out, and we are actively vaccinating and doing surveillance, so eradicating Polio in Nigeria will be our biggest achievement. Not only will we not have active polio and children either dying or becoming crippled from polio, all the money for polio campaign will be available to invest in vaccination, maternal healthcare and Primary Health Care (PHC),” Dr. Mandara said.

Mandara, in Abuja, said that Nigeria was one of the three countries left to completely tackle Poliomyelitis scourge, listing the two other countries as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

She blamed the resurgence of polio in Borno state to the years of insurgency which she said hampered immunisation coverage.

According to Dr Mandara, “for about four years, children and their families were enslaved by Boko Haram and could not be reached by the vaccinators.”

She said that except for Borno, the scourge had not been recorded in any other parts of the country recently.

Mandara also said that the foundation was developing a Nigeria Country Strategy, a plan which was in line with what the Federal Government was doing.

She said it was developing a working methodology that supports the agenda of the government and people of Nigeria to improve health of women and children and its revitalisation of one Primary Healthcare Centre per ward initiative.

Mandara said that the foundation would, through the strategy, also support Nigeria to ensure that small holder farmers become central to its agricultural agenda.

We want to support the Nigerian Government to develop a workforce of village health workers that will go to villages and ensure that there is good health and nutrition education. The government leading and we, with others supporting, so that it will have a sustained strategy for improving the lives of people in Nigeria,’’ the Gates Foundation official said.

She said that the present economic recession was an opportunity for Nigeria to reflect on how it does business, adjust its priorities and invest differently.

“In Nigeria, we are used to having heavy budgets for tertiary health institutions like teaching hospitals, but because of the recession, and with many people at the lower ebb of the pyramid, we need to invest in PHCs. We used to wait until we are sick to treat diseases, but now, we have to invest in prevention of illnesses,’’ Mandara said.

Nigeria’s polio eradication programme

Since 2016 when Nigeria reported four new cases of the Wild Polio Virus after being free of the disease for nearly two years, government working with development agencies had intensified the eradication programme.

The Executive Governors of Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Kebbi and Sokoto joined the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole last week signed a 70 million Euro European Union grant to support the health sector in Nigeria. Of that amount, Twenty (20) million euro, disbursed through WHO will support the strengthening of health care systems towards achieving universal health coverage in Anambra and Sokoto states, and support efforts to eradicate polio from Nigeria.

Also, nearly half of Rotary International’s $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, will support the emergency response campaigns in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and Central African Republic).

According to the acting Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency Dr Emmanuel Odu last week confirmed that there has not been any case of polio in Nigeria since August 2016.

Rafat S.