Nigeria adopts new strategy to contain polio
By Alli Hakeem May 22, 2006, 14:15 GMT
Abuja - Nigeria is changing its strategy to combat the incidence of naturally occurring (or wild) polio in the country, the National Programme on Immunization (NPI) said in Abuja Monday.
Eugene Evatse, an official with the NPI - the Nigerian government's agency solely responsible for immunization against killer childhood diseases, said the strategy, named 'Immunization Plus,' entailed combined immunization against polio, measles, and other diseases.
The World Health Organization said in a report last Friday that Nigeria had 310 cases of wild polio in 15 of its 36 component states, as against 113 cases in the same period in 2005.
Nigeria therefore accounted for 82 per cent of global wild polio cases and 98 per cent of cases in Africa, it said.
The report said that in 1996, when African leaders united to launch an enormous effort to improve the health of children across the continent, polio was rampant in 41 African countries, paralyzing 75,000 African children every year.
'Until 2002, many states within Nigeria were largely polio free,' the WHO stated.
'This is not to say we are not doing anything. We have been conducting immunization exercises over the years and we shall continue to do so,' Evatse said.
According to NPI reports, the whole idea of 'Immunization Plus' is to save parents from fatigue caused by the frequent administration of polio vaccines, which led to suspicion, rejections, complaints and doubts on the sincerity of the exercise in the northern parts of the country in the recent past.
To ensure that the approach is practicable and to pave the way for full implementation, a pilot exercise was carried out in April in four polio high-risk states - Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara and Kaduna - all in northern Nigeria.
NPI reports showed that turn-out 'significantly improved' and that more children were immunized during the five-day activity.
Implementation of 'Immunization Plus' would take place in the 11 high-risk northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara in June, the NPI report added.
'Immunization Plus' has been officially presented to the international community through their various missions in Nigeria for support by NPI Chief Executive Edugie Abebe.
Abebe said the essence of the programme was to prove that routine immunization was the answer to national coverage and that it was a more credible way to end polio in Nigeria.
Immunization Plus, she said, would show that Nigeria was now on the right track in the implementation of its immunization programmes.
Reacting to concerns that the mixed strategy would de-emphasize vaccination against polio, Abebe said NPI would not lose sight of the fact that the target was still polio eradication.
Abebe further said 20 per cent of the 220 million dollars allocated to the health sector from the debt relief of 18 billion dollars granted by the Paris Club of creditors had been set aside for the implementation of immunization programmes.
One of the revelations that took Nigeria's health sector by storm in 2005 was that only 38 per cent national coverage had been achieved in immunization between 1999 and 2005, after over 20 rounds of National Immunization Days.
Abebe said Nigeria had committed 140 million dollars to immunization since 1999, in addition to the material and financial support given by the international community.
PATHS, a British aid organization, said Nigeria remained one of four countries in the world still home to wild polio.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur