Count down Polio eradication –ARCC concludes verification of documentation in Southern Nigeria.
Abuja, 27 December 2019 - In the final lap of certifying Nigeria, a polio-free country, the African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for the eradication of poliomyelitis gave a vote of confidence that Southern Nigeria is on the right path to being polio free.
From 9 to 20 December 2019, the ARCC team visited Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and six Southern states (Abia, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Lagos and Oyo) to conduct a critical analysis and verification of the certification documents prepared by the Nigerian Government. In each of the states visited, routine immunization, cold chain, surveillance activities and documentation were assessed, including those at the LGA levels. All three levels of health facilities; primary, secondary and tertiary were assessed for accuracy of their documents and the polio eradication processes carried out at those levels. The second phase of this review will be taking place in northern states from 02 to 13 March 2020.
In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa reaffirmed his administration's commitment to ensuring that the State remains Polio-free saying, “My administration will continue to provide adequate healthcare to the people. I believe that if we provide opportunities for all our people, it will be a lot easier to get them to be part of the immunization drive against polio and other diseases”.
Meanwhile, in Abia State, the Deputy Governor, His Excellency Ude Chukwu assured the ARCC of his State’s full commitment to providing support whenever the need arises.
Whereas in Lagos State, the Commissioner of Health, Professor Akin Abayomi acknowledged polio eradication efforts spearheaded by World Health Organization (WHO) in Nigeria over the years and commended the ARCC for their thoroughness, “It is no surprise that the world has declared a war on polio virus, and to declare a country or a region polio-free is no simple feat. This is a huge effort by the ARCC which we cannot take for granted.”
The last case of WPV from humans was reported in Nigeria on 21 August 2016 in Monguno Local Government Area, Borno State. As a pivotal partner in the fight against polio, WHO has spent a huge portion of its budget on polio eradication interventions.
During a debriefing to Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Rose Leke (ARCC Chair) represented by Dr Allen King recommended that, “updated preparedness and response plans must be available in all states, and government must ensure all levels of the health system maintain and strengthen AFP and environmental surveillance systems.”
In addition, she called for an increase in local funding in view of declining donor support and stated that “concerted efforts should be made to improve access to primary health facilities through improvements of roads, power supply, communication and transportation. This infrastructure should be prioritized for all health facilities. In addition, Nigeria needs to fast track the implementation of e-patient records with unique identification numbers at all levels and provide appropriate training to enhance capacity of health workers at all levels.”
Confident that Nigeria is indeed on course to polio eradication, Dr Ehanire noted that all the recommendations of the ARCC will be taken into consideration and a national action plan is in place for ensuring standard primary healthcare across Nigeria.
To fully verify and consider Nigeria polio free, the ARCC will reconvene in March 2020 for a final verification visit to states in Northern Nigeria. Based on the team’s recommendations, Nigeria may receive polio free status, while the African Region could be certified to have eradicated polio by June 2020 should the final documentation be approved.
Polio is a highly infectious disease, caused by poliovirus that predominantly affects children under the age of five. Countries, including Nigeria, must strengthen routine immunization to protect communities and ramp up disease surveillance against poliovirus. The World Health Organization calls on all government authorities at all levels, civil society and the general population, to ensure that all children under the age of five are vaccinated against polio.