Nigeria has gone three years without a case of polio, a historic milestone that has set it on the path of removal from the polio eradication list of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nigeria is officially one of three countries, alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan, where polio is still a threat—a full 19 years after the first deadline set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eradicate it elapsed. With this new development, things are about to change for Nigeria.
This is a dramatic change from 2012 when the country accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, the World Health Organization has said.
Speaking to SaharaReporters, Dr. Benjamin Ajayi, a Nigerian doctor who worked in Bauchi state, said, “There were structural problems which hindered the eradication of the disease at the start. Then, religious leaders in northern Nigeria which had a high prevalence of the disease embraced the importance of vaccination and this broke the barrier.
“There was a lot of misinformation about vaccines and some people said it is poison and that it has an adverse effect on health but the introduction of local community leaders to the campaign against polio changed all that. The local leaders owned the process, local primary health care workers were trained and funding by foreign donor agencies also played a huge part.”
WHO said Nigeria reached this point because of the concerted efforts of a broad array of vaccine advocates, including northern Nigeria’s traditional and religious leaders, a network of 20,000 women who have stepped up to take the oral form of the vaccine door to door, and polio survivors themselves.
It noted, "Because this broad coalition has been able to act as reliable mediators—closing the trust gap between the ambitious global goals of the powerful international organizations that fund the initiative; the Nigerian government, which is responsible for it; and parents who are concerned with protecting their children—the country marked three years since it reported a new case of polio on August 21."