WHO Removes Nigeria From Polio-Endemic Countries

The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed Nigeria off the list of Polio-endemic countries, having recorded more than a year after the last case of the disease, describing it as a ‘historic achievement’ in the global health.

The declaration was made in a statement, after a meeting of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the public-private partnership leading the effort to eradicate polio at New York, where it also noted that, Pakistan and Afghanistan are still on the list of polio-endemic countries.

It stated that, Nigeria has not reported a case of wild polio virus since 24th July 2014, (with the last case recorded in the Sumaila, in Kano state); and all laboratory data have proven a free 12 months without any new cases. “This is the first time that Nigeria has interrupted transmission of wild polio virus, bringing the country and the African region closer than ever to being certified polio-free,” they said.

WHO maintained that, for a country to be removed from the list, it needs to record at least 12 months without a case while conferment of polio-free status is done after three years without a case.

They also pointed out that in 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide and attributed the success of its eradication to effort made by government, civil society, religious leaders and the dedicated health workers; stressing that more than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of five years, to prevent them from the disease. Other approaches to its success they added includes, increased community involvement and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centers at the national and state level.

The Body also commended the support of local/ international donors and development partner for their commitment to keep Nigeria and the entire region polio free; stressing that, result of the 25 years concerted effort has made the world almost free to the lifelong paralysis.

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“The eradication of polio globally now depends primarily on stopping the disease in these countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan). As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere.”

In 2015, 41 cases of wild poliovirus have been reported worldwide — 32 in Pakistan and nine in Afghanistan.

“Nigeria has made remarkable progress against polio, but continued vigilance is needed to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return. Immunization and surveillance activities must continue to rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus. After three years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the continent, official ‘certification’ of polio eradication will be conducted at the regional level in Africa.”

Statements from Global Polio Eradication Initiative leadership:

“The outstanding commitment and efforts that got Nigeria off the endemic list must continue, to keep Africa polio-free. We must now support the efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan so they soon join the polio-free world.” – Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization

“We Nigerians are proud today. With local innovation and national persistence, we have beaten polio. We know our vigilance and efforts must continue in order to keep Nigeria polio-free.” –  Dr Ado Muhammad, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Nigeria

“Stopping polio in Nigeria has been a clear example that political engagement, strong partnerships and community engagement are the engines that drive the momentum of public health programmes, enabling them to achieve great things. I would like to congratulate everyone, particularly political, religious and community leaders in Nigeria and across Africa, for reaching a year without cases of wild polio.” – Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

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“This is a clear example of success under very difficult circumstances. It shows we can eradicate polio if proven strategies are fully implemented. Combined with the news of the eradication of type 2 wild polio virus last week, we are moving decisively toward ending a disease that has paralyzed tens of millions of children. In this final mile, we must remain committed to providing the resources and the support to the front lines to make this worthy goal a reality.” – Dr Tom Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Chairman of the Polio Oversight Board

“Rotary congratulates Nigeria on its tremendous accomplishment in stopping polio. On behalf of the entire Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we thank volunteers, health workers and parents in communities across Nigeria for their tireless commitment to ensuring every last child is protected against this devastating disease. In the months ahead, their dedication will remain as important as ever, as we work to keep Nigeria polio-free and to eliminate polio from its final strongholds in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” – K.R. Ravindran, President, Rotary International 

“This is a significant milestone for the global polio eradication effort and the health workers, government and religious leaders and partners should be proud of this accomplishment. While the progress in Nigeria should be celebrated, it is also fragile. It is critical that Nigeria goes two more years without a case of polio which will require the support of partners, increased accountability at all levels of the program led by President Buhari, and increased domestic funding commitments.” – Chris Elias, President, Global Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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“The removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries is a major victory for Nigeria’s children.  It is a testament to the commitment and dedication of the Government of Nigeria, local leaders, and front line workers. And it is proof positive that if we work together in partnership to reach every community and immunize every child, we can finish the job of eradicating this evil disease everywhere, once and for all.” – Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

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