The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, leaving the devastating disease endemic in only two countries (Pakistan and Afghanistan). Globally, this is a feat towards eliminating the scourge for good. This is relevant because cases in Nigeria accounts for more than half of global cases with the last case recorded in August 2016, making it the only country in the African continent to record wild poliovirus infections (Xinhua, 2019).
The virus has paralysed several and killed scores of Nigerians for many years. Today, every Nigerian is very enthusiastic about this historic achievement,” said Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of Nigeria’s National Public Health Care and Development Agency. The commission will finalize documentation examination of the four countries in the coming months before making its final decision on the certification of wild poliovirus eradication in the African continent.
This accomplishment was a slow and gradual one, which without the people that make up the very structure of Nigerian communities would not have been possible. Moreover, surpassing socio-cultural and operational hurdles to vaccination has been facilitated by trust and team efforts by traditional leaders and the network of health frontline workers making household visits across the country. There were several challenges that prevented the eradication of Polio in Nigeria. The insecurity issues consistent with the Northeast region, were majority of cases were identified presented the greatest barrier. As a result, health care workers were unable to vaccinate children in remote locations.
Additionally, the social cultural myth associated with vaccination which includes perceptions that vaccines had the capacity to cause harm and sudden infant death. Others were the idea that vaccines may lead to female sterilization. Furthermore, the overwhelmed health resources with priority given to HIV and malaria made it almost an insurmountable task. Despite these challenges, Nigeria had steadily increased the number of vaccinations by about six folds in high risks local government areas since 2012. As at 2015, 97 percent of LGAs in high-risk states had achieved its goal (Figure 1), that is according to reports by Desmarais (2016).