Race to Polio Eradication in Nigeria: Hare’s or Snail’s Pace?

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Polio Paralysis: http://www.vaccineinformation.org

Poliomyelitis (Polio) is a highly infectious preventable viral disease, mainly affecting children under five years old. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. There is no cure, but is easily preventable by vaccination.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was launched in 1988, in a global effort to create a polio-free world. As a result, polio cases have decreased by over 99% since then. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and India are currently the only four polio-endemic countries worldwide.

Building on critical lessons learnt since 1988, the GPEI launched a new time-bound, area-specific strategic plan aimed at interrupting Wild Polio Virus (WPV) transmissions by the end of 2012, and achieving global eradication by the end of 2015. However, the Nigerian president issued a policy statement on September 29, 2011, indicating its commitment to a polio-free-Nigeria within 24-months, ahead of the 2015 target.

In 2011, new polio cases increased from 11 to 43, with states affected rising from 6 to 8. Why this rising trend? It is clear that the spoken and written policies at the federal level support time-based polio eradication but implementation steps at the grassroots do not.

An independent evaluation report published in 2009 indicated limited commitment to polio eradication at the local level. The buy-in of community groups have neither been gained nor sufficiently sought, making it nearly impossible for these programs to be embraced at these levels. So, how will Nigeria achieve its new ambitious target?

For Nigeria to meet the 2013 target, emphasis must be placed on community involvement. Groups like local women’s associations and traditional birth attendants should be harnessed to drive grassroots implementation programs. Though efficient financial monitoring and accountability systems would need to be incorporated from the federal level, local involvement and ownership through mobilization of existing community groups will be key to success.

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2 Responses to “Race to Polio Eradication in Nigeria: Hare’s or Snail’s Pace?”

  1. mddolce1 Says:

    Hi,
    Thank You for posting a blog on such an interesting topic.
    In general, do you believe polio eradication is possible? Maybe control could be achieved but there are so many other obstacles that should also be considered : asymptomatic cases, political instability the presence of multiple serotypes capable of undergoing mutations that increase neurovirulence and even reversion to wildtype, donor fatigue and the need for new vaccine strategies.

  2. sbfphc Says:

    According to Leadership News (Abuja) 2 March 2012
    Nigeria: Govt Declares Emergency On Polio Eradication
    -new cases will be treated as emergency
    -Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication
    -targets include states with no polio cases report for the last six months to maintain polio free status throughout 2012

    Hopefully this makes up for years of lagging political will and even outright defiance by states and communities.

    Aylward et al. in Am J Public Health. 2000;90: 1515 explained that there are three criteria for eradicability of a disease:
    1. biological and technical feasibility
    2. costs and benefits, and
    3. societal and political considerations
    We have a cost-effective vaccine – now we just need the social and political commitment

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