Bolaji Ogundele, Abuja
NIGERIA was on Tuesday certified free of polio by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
President Muhammadu Buhari described the development as a pointer to the fact that with political will, Africa could also defeat Coronavirus.
He spoke during the virtual session of the 70th World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Committee for Africa.
The last case of wild poliovirus in the Africa region was in 2016 in Nigeria.
According to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, President Buhari recalled his pledge in 2015 to hand over a country free from polio to his successor in 2023.
He said: “This certification is a personal fulfillment of that pledge to not only Nigerians, but to all Africans.
‘‘At a time when the global community is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, this achievement strengthens my conviction that with the requisite political will, investments and strategies, as well as citizens’ commitment, we will flatten the epidemic curve.
‘‘I can affirm the commitment of all African leaders to this course of action.’’
The President assured the global community that Nigeria would sustain the momentum and leverage on the lessons learnt from polio eradication to strengthen her health system and prioritise health security.
Pointing out that Nigeria used data systems, community engagement and innovative technology to monitor and predict the occurrence of polio outbreaks, he said that the same skills and tools are being used to fight COVID-19.
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Buhari described the achievement as a truly historic moment. He commended President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and Chairman of the African Union, under whose leadership, Africa crossed the polio finishing line.
He also lauded WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, GAVI, USAID, European Union, Emeka Offor Foundation, the Japanese and German Governments, numerous NGOs and faith-based organizations for their roles.
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said: “This is a glorious day for Nigeria and a fulfilment of President Buhari’s promise that his government shall provide the necessary resources and commitment required to strengthen the health system, routine immunization and ensure the country is certified Polio Free.’.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, described Africa’s attainment of the wild polio virus free status as a momentous milestone for Africa. She said that future generations of African children can now live free of wild polio.
Moeti added: “This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists. I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.”
The Chairperson of the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication, Prof. Rose Leke, said, “Today is a historic day for Africa. We are pleased to announce that the region has successfully met the certification criteria for wild polio eradication, with no cases of the wild poliovirus reported in the region for four years.”
Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Aliko Dangote, urged governments across Africa to increase their budget allocations to the healthcare sector.