I’ve Fulfilled My Pledge to Eradicate Polio in Nigeria—Buhari
By Adedapo Adesanya
On Tuesday, Nigeria became the 47th African countries to have eradicated the polio disease after decades of efforts.
With no new cases for three consecutive years, Nigeria became the latest country to attain the polio-free status, leading the World Health Organisation (WHO) to officially announce the eradication of the virus in Africa.
Expressing his delight, President Muhammadu Buhari noted that he has fulfilled one campaign promise – the eradication of polio.
In his words, ”I recall that shortly after assuming office in May 2015, I made a pledge to Nigerians that I would not bequeath a polio-endemic country to my successor.
“Today’s certification of our Wild Polio-Free status is in fulfilment of that pledge to not only Nigerians but to all Africans.”.
The President said the certification is a personal fulfilment of that pledge, not only to Nigerians but to all Africans, and indeed a truly historic event.
In 2015, when he came into power, Nigeria had been removed from the global list of polio-endemic nations, a step towards being declared polio-free, but new cases were reported a year later in children in the north.
President Buhari explained that this achievement must be guarded jealously, to prevent a resurgence of the deadly disease.
He expressed gratitude for the strong partnership and collaboration in delivering this success, promising the global community that Nigeria will sustain the momentum.
The President said he will leverage the lessons learnt from the polio eradication process to strengthen health systems, especially primary healthcare and health security.
The declaration was done virtually in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, by the Chairman of the Africa Regional Certification Commission, Mrs Rose Leke.
She said the feat was achieved by averting 1.8 million cases of the wild virus, and the use of nine billion doses of the oral polio vaccines.
Two hundred and twenty million children were vaccinated multiple times, every year by volunteer vaccinators, who supported the campaign between 1996 and 2020.
However, the declaration does not mean Africa is polio-free. Cases remain of the so-called vaccine-derived poliovirus, which is a rare mutated form of the weakened but live virus contained in the oral polio vaccine.
That mutated virus can spark crippling polio outbreaks, and 16 African countries are currently experiencing one.
The news brought a glimpse of hope as Africa is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, an Ebola outbreak in western Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the persistent deadly challenges of malaria, HIV and tuberculosis.