More findings have linked the return of the polio epidemic in Nigeria two years after report of its total control, to lack of proper funding of the polio eradication programme.
A collaborative effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the Federal Health Ministry saw both parties entering into agreement to sustain a staggered programme for five years in the country, especially the northern part where it was rampant.
While the UN body and international donor agencies were to fund the programme by 60 per cent of the total sum, Nigerian government is to contribute 40 per cent through private sector and local-donor agencies.
But an official said the current economic recession has negatively been affecting all government commitment, including the health sector.
Just late last month, traces of the disease were cited within the camps of the Boko Haram internally displaced persons, in Borno State and nearby cities and town in other states.
However, in 2013 the country claimed it had eradicated the deadly disease off its shores.
That many more cases of polio paralysis could come to light is of concern to health investigators, who are currently going into areas of northeastern Nigeria where the country’s first cases in the two years were confirmed.
According to Michel Zaffran, head of polio at the World Health Organization, health authorities would be carrying out detailed surveillance in the state of Borno and surrounding areas to see whether and how many other children might have been affected.
“If this virus has been circulating for several years, there’s a risk many more children have been paralysed. We need carry out intensive and active surveillance to identify them,” he said.
The polio virus, which invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours, spreads rapidly among children, especially in unsanitary conditions in war-torn regions, refugee camps and areas where healthcare, is limited.
Experts estimate that for every case of polio that paralyses its victim, 200 silent infections go undetected.
WHO said it is planning a large, rapid response to the disease’s re-emergence in Nigeria, beginning next week with emergency vaccination campaigns in four local government areas near the two confirmed cases.
The Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is active in Borno and instability in the northeastern state has hampered efforts to get vaccines to children at risk. But Zaffran said health authorities would work with local religious and community leaders to try to ensure better access.
By Emma Eke
RipplesNigeria …without borders, without fears