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How Polio Returned to Nigeria - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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How Polio Returned to Nigeria by Idowu Olabode : August 12, 2016, 08:12:28 AM
Borno state health commissioner, Haruna Mshelia, left Maiduguri for Abuja on Wednesday. Then the whispers began filtering. It was wild poliovirus, and it was back.

Two fresh cases had been spotted in two separate council areas of Gwoza and Jere.

"When I left Maiduguri, there was no news like that," Mshelia tells Daily Trust.

He was to meet with health minister, Isaac Adewole, to get a grip on the situation before any public statements.

Adewole himself had declined earlier to speak about it. For hours through Wednesday night till mid-day Thursday, officials were unsure how to break the news that Nigeria's dream to get polio-free certification was on hold.

It's last case of polio on record was 24 July 2014, and its zero-case status had held firm for two straight years.

The new cases come only weeks after its second-year milestone-and months before it was to clinch World Health Organisation certification after solid three years without the virus.

"What that means is that the certification will start all over again," said Mshelia.

Out of reach, inaccessible


One infection was found in a child in Gwoza council area, the other in Jere council area-two places that had been inaccessible in the height of the insurgency.

"It wasn't that we were not doing the job. A chunk of the state was out reach. We couldn't reach children there," said Mshelia.

Gwoza is still partially accessible, and where people live without access to modern health care, anything can happen, the commissioner explains.

Borno has not had a case of polio infection since 2012, and its governor Kashim Shettima clinched an award for polio-eradication work.

The working plan was to immunise people entering communities with access.

"Where we had access, in the last two years, we have not had cases," said Mshelia.

"All these cases are coming out of areas that were liberated by the gallant activities of our soldiers."

Parts of Mafa council area were inaccessible, locking out health and humanitarian assistance. Many people displaced from Mafa flowed into Jere.

Insurgency, displacement and attacks on health workers disrupted health systems.

"With this confusion, where people were cut off and health workers were very big targets, we couldn't reach these populations being liberated," said Mshelia.

The two children making up Nigeria's standing cases of polio virus infection are among thousands born since then and have "had no contact with civilisation since they were liberated," he added.

"We did not expect polio"


As efforts continued to free areas of the northeast formerly held by Boko Haram, officials expected to see challenges.

The United Nations Children's Fund had warned of the scale of humanitarian assistance needed in newly liberated areas.

"Mr. President himself when we had a meeting last week observed that as we liberate more areas, we should expect challenges," said Adewole.

"But we did not expect that there would be polio. We were expecting nutrition and other problems."

"It is unfortunate that we have this development. It has set us back. But I can assure the nation that we will do everything possible to be on top of the situation. We are drawing out an emergency plan and in the next 48 hours, we are dispatching a team there and we are going to start immunization."

At least three rounds of "special immunisation campaigns" are planned to contain the situation.

Source : Daily Trust

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