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Nigeria’s First Lady mobilises wives of politicians for final push against polio

FIrst Lady at flag off for polio immunisation campaign
© UNICEF Nigeria/2008/Njoku
Nigeria's First Lady holds up a baby she just vaccinated at the Immunisation Plus Days launch in Abuja recently.

Abuja, 21 February 2008 – The First Lady of Nigeria, Hajia Turai Yar‘Adua, the visiting WHO Director General, Dr Margaret Chan, Sultan Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar of Sokoto, former Minister of Health Professor Adenike Grange, and the Country Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Mr Ayalew Abai, attended a very high profile flag off for the second round of polio immunisation campaign at the launch/flag off of the final push to stop the transmission of wild polio virus in Nigeria this year.

The ceremony was held at a primary healthcare centre about 20 kilometres from the city centre of Abuja on 21 February 2008.

Country Representative of UNICEF, Ayalew Abai, particularly noted the giant stride made by Nigeria in its fight against the spread of polio.  He stated: “Nigeria had 285 cases of wild polio virus in 23 states in 2007, compared with 1,122 cases in 18 states for the same period in 2006. There has been a 52% reduction in number of non compliant households in the six high risk states of Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa, Zamfara and Bauchi.”

UNICEF, however, cautioned that there would be no room for complacency as recently shown in the South West where there was a resurgence of the virus after a short absence.  “We have learnt that we cannot relax anymore given our experience in the southern part of the country. We looked elsewhere thinking the job was done in the south. The virus took the opportunity to spread to four more states there,” said the UNICEF Country Representative.

He added that Nigeria is yet to hit the zero case target and that children are still being missed, still being paralysed for life and are denied the potential to develop to their fullest potentials.

Sounding the note of caution, Abai said: “An un-immunised child anywhere means there is still work to do. Until we have reached every child, we cannot be satisfied or celebrate. We still have pockets of non compliance and a general knowledge gap in parents who complain of multiple doses of the polio vaccine.”

He contended that reaching children in the Riverine areas still poses a challenge that Nigeria must rise to.   “The most affected are in Riverine areas, hard to reach and communities are scattered.  We need to exploit this knowledge and concentrate a lot of our efforts in these areas. We have to use data to improve the quality of micro planning and supervision,” stressed the UNICEF Representative.

The visiting Director General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, stated that Nigeria has indeed gained an upper hand in its fight against polio and must maintain the flow as slowing down could spell danger to the global effort at combating the raging virus. She opined that the local community and the people at the grass-roots hold the ace to exterminating the virus and urged Nigeria to focus its attention on rural areas.

Meanwhile, the wife of President Umaru Yar’Adua, Turai Yar’Adua, called on all the wives of elected officers to spearhead the fight against polio and influence their spouses to devout more resources to the fight.

For further information, contact Media & External Relations, UNICEF Nigeria Country Office:
• Paula Fedeski: +234 803 402 0879;
• Geoffrey Njoku:+ 234 803 525 0288;



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