Nigeria remains the only country in Africa yet to interrupt the spread of Wild Polio Virus, the African Regional Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication (ARCC), has said.
ARCC, in its closing ceremony in Abuja urged Nigeria and other countries in the region to strengthen its surveillance, immunisation and other specific problems so as to achieve polio free certification.
The organisation met to review the progress and update reports of polio eradication activities of some countries in the region. The meeting was aimed to ensuring that countries in the region attains polio free status.
Some of the countries whose reports were reviewed are: Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Angola, South Sudan, Central Africa republic, Madagascar, Lake Chad Basin, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Horn of Africa, Mauritania and Nigeria.
ARCC, in the 35-page conclusion and recommendation report made available to the media stated that to effectively eradicate the disease from the continent, most countries need to improve surveillance and immunisation.
It said most of the countries that have successfully interrupted the disease are beginning to fall in their immunisation and surveillance report.
“There has been a continued decline in immunization coverage in majority of the reviewed countries,” it stated.
The commission also reported that Nigeria is the only country in the continent, yet to interrupt polio due to the inaccessible region in the North- eastern part of the country.
Reviewing the progress reports across Africa, the commission noted that countries such as Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Mauritania; are having surveillance and immunisation challenges.
Other countries such South Sudan and Central Africa Republic, were noted to have security challenge. Countries which recorded vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) outbreaks were Kenya and Nigeria, while the only country that has not interrupted Wild Polio (WPV1) is Nigeria.
ARCC noted with concern persistent surveillance and immunity gaps due to accessibility issues in some countries especially Lake Chad basin countries, Mali and South Sudan.
While acknowledging the ongoing work done by the Lake Chad Basin coordination team, the commission said there are issues surrounding the 178 islands belonging to Nigeria; and concerns about the ban to access islands that belong to Niger.
On the first day of the five-day meeting, the minister of health, Isaac Adewole had said Polio remains a threat in Nigeria as over 100,000 children are yet to be immunised against the disease in the North-eastern part of country.
The minister said this is despite the government making considerable progress in immunisation programs in the region.
Mr Adewole explained that the Boko Haram insurgency had made some areas inaccessible to health officials.
In spite this shortcomings, ARCC advised countries to start the implementing specific strategies to raise and sustain routine immunization as a core Polio Eradication Initiative strategy.
They also urged WHO to present and discuss country specific routine immunization coverage with respective ministers of health in the forthcoming Regional Committee meeting.