The engagement of community informants for Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance has yielded a positive result in Borno State, the World Health Organisation Nigeria office has said.
The global health agency said 17 AFP cases were reported in the state in 2019.
In a press statement on Wednesday, WHO said involvement of community informants has significantly strengthened the disease surveillance capacity in key areas of the state, including hard-to-reach areas.
It said the engagement and training of local residents to help support diseases surveillance in the hard to reach areas became necessary as surveillance officers cannot access certain areas.
“From 31 January till 31 December 2018, the community informant initiative has helped to significantly strengthen the disease surveillance capacity in key areas, including hard-to-reach areas,” it said.
For nearly a decade, many local government areas in Borno State were difficult to reach, making it difficult for the local population to access basic health services.
Unfortunately, children have been the main victims as health workers found it difficult to access them, distribute vaccines or provide much needed routine immunisation services.
Sule Mele, the Executive Director, State Primary Health Care Agency, Borno State, said17 AFP cases have been reported this year from hard-to-reach settlements. One of the cases was from a settlement in the Lake Chad Islands.
He said it is imperative that “we continue to sustain the progress achieved in AFP surveillance in insecure areas, through the use of community informants as this strategy also opened a window of opportunity of providing additional basic maternal and child health interventions to these underserved/vulnerable populations.”
Speaking in a similar vein, the Officer in Charge (OiC), WHO Nigeria, Clement Peter, said WHO will be building on the success achieved from the community informant engagement.
He said the initiative has the active support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).
“As a key partner of Nigeria in the effort against polio, WHO is committed to sustaining and expanding the hard-gained progress achieved in surveillance in hard-to-reach areas?”
“In addition to its support to the community informant initiative, WHO will aim at expanding AFP surveillance network in the region notably through the sustained integration of Mobile Hard-to-Reach teams into surveillance activities,” he said.
Mr Peter also said the engaged local informants have also been very helpful in monitoring other IDSR diseases such as measles, whooping cough, Tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis.
Nigeria remains one of the few countries in the world yet to be certified polio-free. In fact, Nigeria is one of the only three countries in the world with ongoing wild poliovirus transmission, alongside Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Nigeria missed the polio-free certificate in 2016 when a case of polio was reported in Borno State after about 18 months of none reporting. For a country to be certified polio-free, it must have gone two years without reporting a case of polio.
Intensive surveillance is vital for rapid detection of any poliovirus circulating in a locality. This will enable a rapid outbreak response before any child develops a sudden weakness of the limbs.
AFP surveillance is the backbone of the global polio eradication effort. However, the current insecurity across the North East has made it challenging to carry out effective identification of all AFP cases and to fully verify the absence of poliovirus in the area.
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