- Category: News and Events
- Published on 12 October 2016
Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria: “We Shall Not Relent”
ABUJA, NIGERIA, August 30, 2016 – The founder of the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is reflecting on years of remarkable public health achievements as he encourages a renewed emphasis on the END POLIO NOW campaign. Philanthropist and business leader Sir Emeka Offor, the Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria, is vowing to defeat polio despite the recent discovery of two cases of Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) of Wild Poliovirus Type 1.
The two cases were isolated in July 2016. According to the National Polio Eradication Operations Center in Abuja, two children hailing from Gwoza and Jere local government area (LGA) of Borno State have been paralyzed by the disease. They marked the only recorded cases of polio in Nigeria since July 2014. The country was within months of being certified free and clear of the disease by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“It is a disheartening turn of event in our collective efforts to rid the country of the dreaded disease,” said Sir Emeka Offor. “We have wrestled polio together for many years and have enjoyed remarkable success. We shall not relent. We will now refocus and join hands to continue the fight to ensure that all children are safe from the disease. We will defeat polio.”
The Rotary International Polio Plus Chair, Michel K. McGovern, admitted that it was disappointing news for Rotarians all over the world and particularly for those in Nigeria, who have been at the forefront of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
“Rotary members remain resilient in the face of challenges,” said McGovern. “Today, we roll up our sleeves and redouble our efforts to rid the world of this devastating disease. Rotary members in Nigeria are already hard at work to support the outbreak response, and our network will also be tapped to protect children quickly in surrounding countries.”
The Federal Government of Nigeria has approved approximately N6.5 billion when the polio crisis started. Earlier this month, the Federal Government of Nigeria pledged an additional N9.8 billion to assist the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in implementing a response plan, which includes immunizing up to 56 million children by November 2016.
Early Successes, Frustrations
From 1996 to 2001, aggressive and expansive mass immunization exercises had advanced Nigeria’s success in the fight against polio nationally. In the South, polio transmission was successfully halted in 2005. The campaign in the North faltered, plagued by rumors and misconceptions about the safety of the vaccine. The brewing radical Islamic terrorist activities of the infamous Boko Haram group further inflamed the situation with cases increasing from 202 in 2002 to 1,122 in 2006.
Concerted efforts in the form of diplomacy, funding and political pressure by WHO, GPEI representatives, Rotary International and private sector organizations inspired a change in the trajectory for polio eradication. This combination fast-tracked awareness and anti-polio exercises. By late 2013, polio cases were down to six with a promising endgame by 2017. By July 2015, Nigeria had become delisted from the three endemic nations remaining Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The isolated cases of AFP in Borno State are a sobering reminder that no child is safe until every potential virus becomes eradicated worldwide,” said Sir Emeka. “Nigeria should be unreserved in its vigilance, intensify surveillance across borders, and continue to drive forward the campaign on national immunization, particularly in the hard to reach communities of the northeast.”
Written by: Dr. Edwin Ndukwe
International Development Consultant