* Boko Haram Blocking Access To 160,000 Kids In Borno-NPHCDA, E.D
By Kemi Yesufu, Abuja
Chairman of the Expert Review Committee (ERC) For Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria, Professor. Oyewale Tomori has blamed Nigeria’s inability to eradicate polio on years of corruption.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2015 deleted Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries, following the interruption of the Wild Polio Virus, with Pakistan and Afghanistan remaining on the list. But Nigeria is yet to be declared polio-free.
Nigeria’s match to receiving a polio- free certification was halted in November 2016, as after twenty four months of not recording a case of the Wild Polio Virus in the country, three children were confirmed to have been paralysed by the disease in Borno State.
The cases were traced to Gwoza, Jere and Monguno Local Government Areas, once controlled by Boko Haram.
It is feared that there could be a re-occurrence of a discovery of polio cases in areas of Borno State, yet to be accessed by vaccinators, due their continued occupation by insurgents.
Speaking at the 35th ERC meeting held in Abuja, Tomori, a professor of Virology, accused successive administrations of mismanaging the country’s wealth, leading to Nigeria depending heavily on foreign donors to fund critical interventions, especially in the health sector.
“This is the message we need to pass to our government, that if you spend our money well, people will be coming to Nigeria, not to look at polio cases but to beg us for money.
“Government should put us in the position we should be and not where we are. It is left for you and I. And I am saying this in the presence of my colleagues, so maybe they can pass the message to government. Sometimes, they listen to you more than they will listen to me. They listened to Bill Gates because he has big money.
“We need to come together for the sake of our country, for the sake of our children, that last child… so that whatever the government needs to do is done and we can get this (polio) issue out”, he said.
Tomori while speaking with journalists at the end of the meeting, stressed the need for the Federal Government to ensure that all communities in Borno State are liberated in order for children in held areas to be vaccinated.
He argued that, only then can Nigeria confidently declare itself free of polio transmission, for the past 18 months as being touted by a number of stakeholders.
On his part, the Executive-Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib reiterated the importance of reaching an estimated 160 thousand children, who are trapped in yet to be liberated areas in Borno State with vaccines.
“Simply put, success is access. The only reason why Nigeria is still categorised a polio endemic country is because we do not have access to some LGAs in Borno State. Unless and until, we have access to these LGAs and smaller wards, it is difficult for us to say categorically that polio has been eradicated.
“We still have access problems in Abadam LGA, in Marte LGA and we still have some areas of Bama, Dambowa, Ngala LGA and Magumeri LGA… these are areas that have a larger proportion of over 160 thousand children Under-5, that we are trying to reach with life saving vaccines. Unless we are able to reach these kids, we cannot guarantee that polio transmission is not occurring in Nigeria”, Shuaib said.