Nigeria the 2009 leader in progress toward ending polio
A Rotarian records that a household's children have been vaccinated against polio during Immunization Plus Days in Nigeria. Rotary Images/Joseph Lorenzo
The incidence of polio in Nigeria dropped by more than 50 percent in 2009 to 388 cases as of 22 December, compared with 783 cases for the same period in 2008.
Most dramatic was the decline in the transmission of the type 1 wild poliovirus, to 74 cases from 707. Also, the proportion of unimmunized children in Nigeria’s highest-risk states fell below 10 percent for the first time.
The World Health Organization's Advisory Committee on Polio Eradication attributes 95 percent of the world’s progress against the disease in 2009 to Nigeria’s success. Rotarians are playing a key role in their country’s gains by
- Immunizing children and helping to overcome resistance from families initially opposed to vaccination
- Airing public service announcements on state radio and sponsoring town criers to urge mothers to bring their children to immunization posts
- Monitoring National Immunization Days and Immunization Plus Days, and handing out soap, school supplies, and other items to children who were vaccinated
- Advocating with government, religious, and traditional leaders to step up support for ending polio
- Conducting a national workshop in September to train local Rotary leaders in polio eradication
“There is a big momentum, much more than ever before, of the federal government, more state governments, and traditional leaders, as well as some local governments, to mobilize all the needed forces,” says Busuyi Onabolu, chair of the Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. The effort aims to ensure “that the required quality of the campaigns is regularly implemented and every child is immunized with the potent OPV [oral polio vaccine] drops.”
Supplementary Immunization Plus Days in November “witnessed a massive support from traditional leaders,” says Onabolu. “There is no doubt that the traditional and religious institutions have added a new and positive dynamic to the polio eradication campaign.”
Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the government entity responsible for polio immunization activities in Nigeria, pointed to “an enormous responsiveness on the part of parents in many states” as key to the success of Immunization Plus Days in October that reached more than 30 million children.
Other allies in Nigeria’s drive to end the disease include Journalists Against Polio and the Forum of Muslim Women of Nigeria, both with networks in the country’s high-risk northern states. Organizations like these are working in partnership with the media and communities to help coordinate the promotion of polio eradication.
A bivalent vaccine, already in use in Afghanistan, has been developed to stop the transmission of the type 1 and type 3 wild polioviruses simultaneously. According to WHO, the vaccine is intended for introduction in India and Nigeria by late January and is expected to be “a critical new tool” in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Learn more about Rotary's effort to eradicate polio:
Read more about polio and what you can do to help.
Watch a video about Rotary's progress in meeting the US$200 Million Challenge