It was with great joy and happiness that I received the news of the recent delisting of Nigeria from the embarrassing club of countries (Nigeria and the ravaged countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan) with gold, silver and bronze medals in Polio endemicity by the World Health Organization (WHO).
While this delisting by WHO is not particularly surprising to me, Nigeria having recorded progressive decline in the incidence of wild polio virus since 2014, and with no case recorded since July 2014, I heartily congratulate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and all Nigerians for yet another feat in the health sector, coming almost a year after Nigeria achieved a similar feat in her determined fight against Ebola Virus Disease.
This feat which has been achieved despite the numerous challenges which has befuddled Nigeria’s health sector and her polio campaign, is a manifestation of the top level political commitment to the polio campaign by the Nigerian Government, particularly the Immediate Past Government of Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,GCFR, the resilience and commitment of health care workers despite recurring threats to their lives, the renewed efforts made by religious and traditional leaders, Development partners, Professional Associations and other stakeholders, and particularly the highly innovative leadership and management offered by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) which worked hard to revitalize the flagging fortunes of the polio campaign over the years, especially in the face of superstitious and mythical misconceptions about the polio vaccine and recurring acts of insurgency. I acknowledge that the strengthening of NPHCDA’s stewardship role, the commendable improvement in its transparency and accountability processes, the intensification of its public enlightenment and demystification campaigns with the increased enlisting of the participation of more political and religious leaders, as well as its effective use of innovative technologies such as the Satellite (GPRS) mapping system to check the vaccination coverage in real time, have led to the current successes recorded in Nigeria’s polio campaign.
However, I would like the Nigerian Government to dedicate this global feat to the memories of all the health workers, particularly the vaccination health workers, who were villainously and gruesomely murdered in the course of vaccinating our Nigerian children. In my view, all the slain polio vaccinators remain Nigeria’s heroes in her war against polio, and therefore deserve to be immortalized.
Going forward, I call on the Nigerian Government and its implementing agency (NPHCDA) not to rest on their oars, but to make improved efforts in the current polio campaign and solidly consolidate on the present gains through sustained and focused political commitment to the health sector and the polio campaign, sincere and sustained improvement in the Public health system (particularly Nigeria’s weak Primary Healthcare System), expeditious implementation of the National Health Act, provision of better security cover for healthcare workers in all public health facilities in Nigeria, as well as sustained commitment of all stakeholders, including Professional Associations in the health sector, and all global partners and donors such as Rotary International, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This is one sure way we can permanently consign the disabling disease of polio to the dustbin of history.
Congratulations to all Nigerians!!!
By Dr. Osahon Enabulele, M.B; B.S, MHPM, FWACP
Vice President, Commonwealth Medical Association;
Immediate Past President, Nigerian Medical Association.