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OFFICIAL: Nigeria off ‘polio-endemic countries’

OFFICIAL: Nigeria off ‘polio-endemic countries’
October 26
20:10 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially removed Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries.

The announcement came after the country’s historic interruption of the transmission of wild poliovirus for a period of 15 months, which exceeds WHO’s target for interruption.

Nigeria’s exclusion leaves Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only polio-endemic countries in the world, a far cry from more than 125 countries in 1988.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, announced WHO’s decision to remove Nigeria from the polio-endemic list to President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday in Abuja.

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“It is my pleasure to congratulate the people and the government of Nigeria on the interruption of wild poliovirus transmission and to inform that Nigeria has been officially removed from the list of polio-endemic countries,” she said on behalf of Margaret Chan, WHO’s director-general.

“The remarkable achievement is a true testament of what political will, government leadership, community ownership, and the collective efforts of partners can achieve when united behind a global public health good.

“To achieve polio eradication, we must ensure that in the next two years no child is paralyzed due to polio. There is no time for complacency and we must remain vigilant.”

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WHO revealed that the dramatic progress in the fight against polio in Nigeria has been greatly facilitated by the involvement of the states and local government areas.

Moeti urged the government to further “create community demand and strengthen access to immunization, particularly in the most under-served, high-risk and insecure areas in the country”.

“Health care workers, community mobilizers, religious and traditional leaders have been the real unsung heroes in helping to reach every last child with life-saving polio vaccine.

“The combined, coordinated effort of these front-line workers in Nigeria has brought us to where we are today, a step closer to global polio eradication.”

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Buhari commended the significant contributions of WHO, development partners, and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and described the announcement as a ‘historic achievement’ in global health.

The federal ministry of health was given a clear directive to come up with measures for enhanced effort towards ensuring the sustenance of a polio-free Nigeria.

Buhari also committed that the government will sustain the needed funding for operations and vaccine procurement for the programme.

Also, the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication (PTFoPE) will be reconstituted under the leadership of the federal ministry of health to provide political direction and oversight in order to avoid complacency and ensure certification by 2017.

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The president also appreciated WHO, UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, US-CDC, Rotary International, and a host of others who contributed financially and materially to the overall efforts.

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