President inaugurates task force on polio

Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan has described the existence of wild polio virus in Nigeria as embarrassing going by the fact that the disease can easily be eradicated.

“I believe Nigerians that are here are as embarrassed as me whenever issues of polio are mentioned in the papers. That Nigeria is still a sanctuary of wild polio and we are becoming a threat to other countries.

“It is quite embarrassing especially considering the fact that polio is a disease that we can conveniently eradicate. It could have been done some years back; we don’t need rocket science to eradicate polio.” The president said

Mr. Jonathan was speaking during the inauguration of a presidential task force on polio at the Aso Rock presidential villa Thursday.

The president also said it was his administration’s desire to ensure that the disease is eradicated in the country that led a steep increase in funding for the polio vaccine from $17 to $30 million dollars, and also pledged to increase the funding when it became necessary.

The president also directed the task force to report directly to his office to enable him monitor the progress, challenges, and corrective actions being taken to stop the spread of polio in the country.

Mr. Jonathan also took time to commend state Governors for their commitment on the fight against the disease but also urged for cooperation and constant sensitization on the need for the popular to accept the immunization policy.

“So, it takes the will of government from federal through the states to the local governments and the traditional institutions to educate the people to accept the vaccination.

“In Australia during the CHOGM, I pledged that before I leave office we must eradicate polio. Luckily for us, out of the 36 states and the federal capital territory, the disease is now limited to about eight states.” The president said

The states still battling Polio include Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Borno and Yobe.

In apparent reference to insinuations in some quarters that Nigeria’s inability to successfully eradicate polio may be as a result of its population size, president Jonathan said Nigeria’s population cannot be an excuse because countries with far higher population have successfully eradicated the disease.

“We cannot begin to say that the Nigeria population is high or big that is why we cannot eradicate polio; that is no excuse because countries that have over one billion people have done that. We are just about 170 million people so, we have no excuse.”

The president also expressed appreciation to development partners in their efforts to help the nation eradicate the disease.

“Let me thank our development partners that have been working with us to eradicate polio in Nigeria especially the government of Japan, United Kingdom, the United States, and the German government, Rotary International and especially the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“My commitment to the people of this country is that between now and 2015 when my term of office is expected to end; we will work day and night to make sure that we eradicate polio.”

The chairman of the committee who is also the Minister of state for health, Mohammed Ali Pate said they will work day and night to ensure that they succeed in their assignment.

Mr. Pate also noted that this is the first time polio eradication was getting unprecedented political will.

He further noted that in 2010, the country was celebrated for taking giant strides towards interruption of polio transmission as “we recorded the lowest annual number of cases (21) that year compared to 388 cases in 2009. This represented a huge 95 per cent reduction. The quality of our 2010 campaigns, the community mobilization strategies, provision of strong political leadership as well as visible Northern traditional leadership supports are some of the contributing factors to this success.

“Of the four need endemic countries -Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nigeria, our dear country was then considered at the global level as the first with mostly potential to interrupt and thereby exist from this group. Sadly, as a result of some challenges and barriers, 2011 saw an upsurge in polio cases (62) that necessitated a stronger wake-up call to ensure we achieve this important historical milestones in our health care agenda,” he said.

Other members of the committee are, G. Dantang, Chairman Senate Committee on Health; N. Elumelu, Chairman House Committee on Health; Ado J. G. Muhammad Executive Director/CEO, NPHCDA; Salma Anas Kolo, Hassan Hussien Adamu, Abubakar Labaran Yusuf, Muhammed Nasidi Danladi, Abdullahi Maigwandu and Abubakar D. Aliyu. Others are Shehu Aliyu Samba, Muhammed Kabiru, Hide Idris, Sunday Nwangele, Mansur Kabir, Asishana Okauru, Umar Ibn Elkanemi, Emir of Bama, Sunday Onuoha, David Okello, Suomi Sakai, Busuyi Onabolu and Maryam Othman

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