Buhari describes how Nigeria waged a merciless war against polio and won

President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday congratulated fellow citizens and thanked local and international partners for beating Wild Polio Virus.

Mr. Buhari was reacting to the announcement last week by the World Health Organization (WHO)  that Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan had become wild polio-free.

The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC), responsible for certifying the eradication of wild poliovirus in the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region will make its final decision about the region’s wild poliovirus status in August 2020.

“Following field verification visits over the past year and thorough critical analysis of the documentation of the polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity presented by the governments of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan, the Commission has validated that the countries’ documentation grants them wild polio-free status,” WHO said in a statement on Friday.

President Buhari said the achievement reflects the resilient spirit of Nigerians, particularly the capacity of hardworking men and women in the health industry, who drew resources and support from multiple sectors to deal a final blow to the deadly virus.

“This achievement is not only one of the great successes of this generation of Nigerians but also one of the obvious dividends of this administration, which is consistent with our progressive investment in the health of our people since 2015.

“This landmark achievement is also a promise kept to all Nigerians. As you will recall that in August 2015, barely three months after we assumed office, I promised Nigerians that: ‘My government shall provide the necessary resources and commitment required to strengthen the health system, routine immunization and ensure the country is certified Polio free.’’

The President noted that in 2016 the country suffered a major setback in the polio eradication efforts with the outbreak of the Wild Polio Virus in Borno State, after about two years without any case, and he promptly directed the immediate release of N9.8billion to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to contain the outbreak.

“Subsequently, we have been meeting all our financial obligations to bilateral and multilateral agreements, and also provided the moral support and leadership required at all levels to motivate the men and women in the frontline of polio eradication. In addition, we sincerely appreciate our donors and development partners who stood by the country during those trying times.

“This achievement of polio free status is a hard-won battle spanning over three decades of hard work and dedication by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the Federal, States and Local Governments, polio eradication team at all levels, our donors and development partners, both local and international.

“As we recall, the polio eradication structures were used when Nigeria successfully eradicated Ebola Virus Disease within the shortest possible time in 2014. I am glad that these same human, material and technological resources have been deployed to steadily increase Routine Immunization coverage and are being organized to implement the fight against community transmission of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This big battle would not have been won without the support of our donors and development partners including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Rotary International, United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), European Union, Global Health Canada, German Development Bank (KfW), WHO, UNICEF, Nigeria Governor’s Forum, Polio Survivors Group, the media, faith-based and other non-governmental organizations.’’

President Buhari acknowledged the immense contribution of traditional and religious leaders who mobilized communities to accept immunization and other government programmes.

“The final theatre of the polio eradication fight was particularly championed by the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Polio Eradication and Primary Health Care (NTLC) under the guidance of His Highness, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saad Abubakar, and strategic leadership of late Shehu of Bama, Alh. Kyari Ibn Umar El-Kanemi.

“We thank you all for the leadership and partnership over the years,” the President said.“This achievement by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan is a major step towards the eradication of wild poliovirus in the African region,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “As the continent struggles with COVID-19, this milestone shows that when leaders, partners, health workers and communities come together we can triumph over the most difficult health challenges.”

Chief White House Correspondent for

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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