Monday, 28 September 2015

Nigeria removed from list of polio endemic countries

Kick polio out of Nigeria
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan announced the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries at the Polio Oversight Board Meeting in New York, USA.

After a year of not reporting a single case of polio; this was a historic occasion for polio eradication in Nigeria, Africa and globally.

The announcement was made after the presentation by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for the African Region, who updated the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Polio Oversight Board (POB) on the current status and challenges of the polio eradication programme in the African Region.
“I will continue to monitor progress on polio eradication in the African Region and ensure that the Region achieves the GPEI milestones until Africa is certified polio free”, Dr. Moeti assured the audience.
The POB comprises Heads of Agencies of the GPEI partners and present were the Director of the USA Centres of Disease Control (CDC) – Dr. Thomas Frieden, who is the current chair of the POB; Mr. Anthony Lake – the Executive Director, UNICEF; Mr. Mike Govern – Rotary International; and Dr. Chris Elias – the President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Also present were chairs of the GPEI Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), Sir Liam Donaldson, and the co-chair of the GPEI Polio Partners Group (PPG), Ambassador John Lange. Other partners at the occasion included the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the German Government, the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunizations (GAVI), the World Bank, philanthropists, among others.

The POB, IMB and PPG members congratulated Nigeria and the African Region on the historical milestone in polio eradication and global health and advised the African Region to do more to sustain the hard-earned gains and ensure that the Region is certified polio-free by 2017. Among the priorities should be intensifying surveillance, rapidly raising population immunity and timely responses to any poliovirus outbreaks.

Government officials from the only remaining polio endemic countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, were also present and made presentations. The Afghanistan delegate congratulated Nigeria and Africa and narrated that that there is something to learn from the African success. He further requested, on behalf of his government, technical support from Nigeria to assist their polio eradication programme.

The POB noted that the announcement of delisting Nigeria gives a lot of hope for global polio eradication and great advocacy for mobilizing more resources for polio eradication. On her part, Nigeria reaffirmed her financial commitment to contribute their annual budget till certification of eradication.

In her final remarks, the WHO Director – General emphasized the importance of polio legacy planning and transitioning, so that the GPEI human resource and assets should be properly used to strengthen health systems and benefit other public health interventions, now and in the future.

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