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Boko Haram, a hindrance to polio eradication in Nigeria- Tomori

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Oluwatosin Komolafe

The Chairman, Expert Review Committee (ERC) on polio and primary healthcare in Nigeria, Prof. Oyewole Tomori, has said that Boko Haram remains the major reason for the country’s inability to effectively combat the issue of polio pandemic.

To this end, Tomori urged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to once again wave the same magic wand it used to free the kidnapped Dapchi and Chibok girls in getting the country free from Polio.

Speaking with journalists after the 35th ERC meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, he explained that Nigeria has not really performed well, as expected.

Tomori stressed the fact that lack of access to the people remains a major barrier to Nigeria’s victory in the fight against Polio.

He noted that the pandemic is prevalent in majorly insurgence-held states like Borno and Yobe, hence the inability to get the vaccines to them as and when due.

“The only reason Nigeria is enlisted as a polio-endemic state is because we do not have the access to some Local Government Areas(LGAs) of Borno State. Unless and until we have access, to these LGAs and other smaller ones, it will be difficult to say that polio has been eradicated”, he said.

Tomori said for Polio to be eliminated, there should be political and personal will from the leaders in the country.

He said: “We should be asking pertinent questions on how we are able to bring back the Chibok and Dapchi girls and apply the same mystery to eradicating polio in the country.

“Based on my expertise as the chairman of the expert review committee ,we have not really done well, there should be political will and personal will. Different government have come with their political will. We should be putting ourselves into this work.”

“We are not reaching the children as we should ,there are some areas where we dont have access. Even when we have access ,we are not reaching the children ,each of us are responsible ,and we need that commitment to put in all the best efforts in our health sector.”

“My generation have not really offered is much in our country. Some vaccinations are very far away from the people. Each of us is responsible for the state of decadence . My generation has no excuse not to give back into the country as the younger generation has not really be benefited from this country

“When some of us speak they don’t listen to us ,but when outsiders come they listen to them. But when Bill Gates speaks, everyone is shouting just because he has money. Am a Nigerian and passionate about health care development, we should listen to experts from our country ,and do the right thing.”

Nigeria has not really performed well. We have fought it but not the way we should have fought it”, he added.

The ERC Chairman also pointed out that different governments and regimes have had their various levels of commitments to the fight against polio, saying ” different governments have given their verbal commitments, more than a political will, but did not commit financially”.

He went further to say that beyond spending money, one needs to be patriotic about the fight against polio.

According to him, “commitment is not just about putting in money. For polio to be eradicated, it takes personal commitment and we have only had this in a few governments but not all”.

However, the Executive Secretary of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, gave a ray of hope to Nigerians, declaring that polio eradication is an achievable goal.

Shuaib stated that with the prompt rescue of the Dapchi girls and the commitment (verbally and financially) of President Buhari to the course of eradicating polio in Nigeria, the issue of polio would be a forgotten one in about the space of two years.

He stressed the need to improve access in some wards and local government so as to interrupt wild Polio virus in the next 18 months.

Shuaib noted that if the country is able to interrupt polio in the next 18 months, which is late 2019, “then we have made considerable progress .

“We will be able to say that Nigeria would be the first among the three endemic countries to cross the line.”

Speaking further, he disclosed that the reason why Nigeria is being termed as a Polio endemic country is because we do not have access in some local government .

“If we don’t have access in some local government, we are not making reasonable progress in this regards ,as a single case of the wild Polio virus will distort all the efforts put in so far”

“In another 18 months ,if we are not interrupted by Polio ,Nigeria will be categorized as a country that have eradicated Polio,” Shuaib asserted.

He said that the government cannot say because they don’t have access to all the insurgent communities, then the country “will be at a standstill” with regards to polio eradication.

The NPHCDA boss however, noted that the country still has access problems in some local government like Dakua, Ngala with a populations of over 160,000 people.

The Executive Secretary further noted that from 2014-2016 Nigeria was supposed to be free of wild polio virus, saying: “We were almost rolling out the drums before we had that outbreak in 2016,and changed all the narrative.”

To this end, Shuaib said the government has approved N9.8 billion to ensure that Nigeria has no case of wild polio virus.

He said the agency will ensure that all the eligible children are reached and that all the community are reached with the vaccines .

“There is a threat that we may have the cases of wild polio virus. We will intensify all effort to ensure that the children are all vaccinated.

“Its unbelievable, what pushing ahead can do .We want to ensure that the programme is independent of what is happening in the environment,” he added.

Similarly, Shuaib noted that agency will ensure that life saving vaccines are available to the children ,and ensure they have good nutrition.

“We are focusing on how to ensure that all eligible children are covered if f access is improved ,we can eradicate Polio in the country,” he said.


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