THE 66th session of the World Health Organisation Regional Committee for Africa ended last week in Ethiopia with a strong commitment by the WHO to support Nigeria in eliminating polio from the country.
The Director General, WHO, Margaret Chan, who at the session recalled with admiration, the feat recorded by Nigeria in celebrating two years of no single case of wild polio transmission, regretted new cases of children paralysed by polio in Borno State.
‘‘This set back in no way undermines the tremendous job done by the Nigerian Government in getting down to zero case. You will get there again. We will get the job done,’’ Chan said, adding that WHO will offer the necessary support to Nigeria in putting an end to polio.
She commended the efforts of the governments of the region in creating improved health access and reducing the disease burden despite the huge challenges the continent was facing.
These results, according to Chan, “provides powerful evidence of what can be achieved in resource constrained settings, and an equal powerful incentive for further investment in domestic and foreign resources,” she added.
According to her, the progress so far recorded in Africa provides a reason for optimism as the world moves into the era of Sustainable Development Goals.
She said Africa stands to benefit most from implementation of the SDG Agenda, especially since the alleviation of poverty was an overarching SDG objective as nothing holds back health development in the region as much as the full grip of poverty.
Earlier in her statement, the Regional Director, Africa, WHO, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti , said there was a tremendous improvement in the way the region responds to emergencies, adding, “although Africa faces multiple and complex disease outbreaks, timely detection and improved emergency response will help in tackling the challenge.”
She noted that the two new cases of wild polio virus recorded in Nigeria, has called for more vigilance in the region, especially in the areas which were hitherto rendered inaccessible by security challenges.
She commended the prompt response by the Nigerian Government and welcome the planned commencement of synchronised vaccination of the vulnerable population by the governments of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic and Nigeria scheduled for August 27, 2016.
The Nigerian Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole explained to the newsmen after the opening of the meeting that Nigeria has declared polio a public health emergency and vaccination has begun in Borno State and two additional states has been included, which would be followed by 18 other states. Adding that eventually the country will implement six rounds of vaccination according to the international best practices.
His Excellency, The President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Mulatu Teshome, in declaring the meeting open called on African Nations to stay vigilant and prepare to address both the current and emerging health threats. “let us not lose sight that our present preparedness is a guaranteed investment for tomorrow,” he added.
This article was first published on This Day newspaper website