The Federal Government has lauded the historic certification of Nigeria and Africa as a polio-free country and continent, respectively.
In a statement on Tuesday, the government welcomed the development as “a glorious day for Nigeria” and fulfilment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise.
It noted that the President had given the assurance that his administration would provide the necessary resources to strengthen the health system, routine immunisation, and ensure the country was certified polio-free.
Reacting to the feat recorded, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, described it as the fulfilment of President Buhari’s promise and the resilient spirit of Nigerians, especially frontline health workers who gave Nigeria the pride of place in the comity of nations.
“It is indeed one of the greatest dividends of the present administration,” he was quoted as saying in a statement by Mohammad Ohitoto who is the Head of Public Relations Unit at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
The Executive Director and Chief Executive of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, could not agree less with the minister on polio eradication in Nigeria.
“It is one classical example of human resilience, wherein the face of adversity, in spite of numerous setbacks, over the course of almost three decades, Nigerians came together, relentlessly worked hard with our donors and development partners to eradicate polio,” he stated.
The NPHCDA boss added that the history of polio eradication in Nigeria was evidence of how the health system could work collaboratively with the community and religious leaders to eradicate any disease.
He stressed that the use of the polio eradication strategy contributed immensely to the rapid control of the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014.
Shuaib, who coordinated the Ebola outbreak response, revealed that the lessons learned from the success of polio eradication “is exactly what we’re using with the COVID-19 outbreak response.”
He said the recent feat did not come easy as it has been a long and arduous journey, with great efforts and investment from the government, donors, as well as local and international partners.
The NPHCDA boss listed them to include Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, WHO, Unicef, CDC, USAID, Gavi, EU, Global Affairs Canada, DFID, World Bank, JICA, KfW, and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, to mention a few.
He pointed out that the major problem the programme faced was insecurity, saying it affected the effort at achieving polio eradication.
Shuaib, however, believes the polio programme was able to surmount this problem and others through the establishment of the Presidential Task Force on Polio Eradication, the Polio Emergency Operation Centers (EOC), the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Polio Eradication led by the Sultan of Sokoto, among others.
He attributed the achievement to the leadership provided by President Buhari, Ehanire, traditional and religious leaders, local and international partners, all health workers, and the Nigerian populace.
The NPHCDA also dedicated the certification to the memory of all those who lost their lives in the cause of polio eradication, describing them as Polio Heroes.