The reemergence of polio virus two years after the disease disappeared in Nigeria is extremely worrisome to the country’s authorities and their international partners like WHO and UNICEF, among others. This is because before the confirmation of now three cases of polio in northeast Nigeria, the country was to be declared polio free in 2017 by WHO.
The confirmation of the two cases among two children found in Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas of Borno State birthplace of Boko Haram militants August 11, 2016 made the authorities to fear there could be many more children with the disease in the region.
“The confirmation of a wild poliovirus outbreak in northeast Nigeria underlines the emergency facing children in conflict-affected Borno State, where children are already facing dangerously high levels of malnutrition,” Doune Porter, UNICEF Nigeria communications officer, said in a statement sent to AFP in August, 2016.
On August 12, 2016 Foxnews reported Michel Zaffran, Head of Polio at WHO to have said, “there could very well be more cases of polio in the country.” He said health authorities would be carrying out detailed surveillance in the state of Borno and surrounding areas to see whether and how many other children might have been affected. “If this virus has been circulating for several years, there’s a risk many more children have been paralyzed. We need to carry out intensive and active surveillance to identify them,” Zaffran told Foxnews.
Vanguard Newspaper on August 21 quoted Project Director for the Community Health and Research Initiative, CHR, Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba, to have inked the fresh outbreak to the non-release of the N12.8 billion approved for routine immunization five months after the president assented to the 2016 budget. Magashi-Garba expressed worry that the continued delay may put the lives of over 7.2 million Nigerian children in danger or even cause more outbreak of polio and other vaccine–related childhood diseases.
It was gathered that since the outbreak of the virus, Nigerian helicopters rushed polio vaccines to dangerous areas in order to stop the disease from further spread to other parts of the country and neighboring countries. Borno State shares a border with countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Niger Republic.
Also in August 2016 Daily Mail quoted WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti to have said, the “overriding priority now is to rapidly immunize all children around the affected area.”
The WHO said polio virus, which invades the nervous system can cause irreversible paralysis within hours, spreads rapidly among children, especially in unsanitary conditions in war-torn regions, refugee camps, and areas where healthcare is limited. Experts estimate that for every case of polio that paralyses its victim, 200 silent infections go undetected.
Nigerian Reporter in August reported that with the reemergence of polio virus in Nigeria, the country suffered a great set back in its fight to eradicate the disease as it now rejoined Pakistan and Afghanistan as the three countries with polio prevalence in the world. This means that international donor agencies and Nigeria’s authorities must work and cooperate to save the 7.2 million children who are said to be at risk in Africa’s most populated nation.