Polio rears its head in Nigeria

September 15, 2016

After more than two years without wild polio-virus in Nigeria, the government has reported two children have been paralysed by the disease in the northern Borno state.


An emergency mass polio vaccination has been announced with the Government of Nigeria collaborating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to prevent more children from being paralysed.


More than one million children will be immunised in the affected areas in Borno and a further four million will also be targeted in surrounding states.


“We are confident that with a swift response and strong collaboration with the Nigerian Government, we can soon rid the country of polio once and for all.  This is an important reminder that the world cannot afford to be complacent as we are on the brink of polio eradication – we will only be done when the entire world has been certified polio-free,” said Dr. Michel Zaffran, Director of polio eradication at WHO Headquarters.


The cases were confirmed exactly two years after Africa's last case of polio and are a major setback for Nigeria who was on track to be declared polio free by 2017.


In recent years Nigeria has made significant advances in its fight against polio considering that as recently as 2012 Nigeria had accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.


The two cases in Nigeria particularly highlight the need to prioritise immunisation of children in hard-to-reach areas such as the Lake Chad region, which spans several countries and is often affected by conflict and large population movements.


Reaching these children requires vaccinating populations as they move in and out of inaccessible areas and using local-level groups and organisations, such as religious institutions and community based organisations, to negotiate access for vaccination teams.


Globally, the world is very close to reaching the goal of polio eradication. Only 21 wild polio cases have been reported so far in 2016, compared to 34 cases at the same point last year. Only two other countries are reporting polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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