By Sola Ogundipe, with agency reports
LAGOS— About one million children in Borno State and a further four million in neighbouring states are being targeted for immunization against the Wild Polio Virus as the Federal government, supported by the World Health Organisation, WHO, UNICEF and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, GPEI, begins an emergency immunisation campaign this week, after two fresh cases of paralysis emerged last week.
Agency reports said the campaign will start in accessible parts of Borno State. It was gathered that military helicopters have already begun transporting polio vaccines to the area.
“This is an area which is not easily accessible and this is probably why the virus has been able to circulate without being detected and it’s causing these cases,” said Director of Polio Eradication of the World Health Organization, Michel Zaffran.
Last week, the Federal Government and WHO confirmed two reported cases of wild poliovirus in conflict-ridden Borno State.
In the new polio cases, two children who were paralyzed with the virus— came when Nigeria was on track to be certified free of the virus next year.
To be declared free of polio, Nigeria must go three years without a new case.
“The discovery of the cases was a result of increased health surveillance in the north-east, made possible by military success against Boko Haram,” government said.
Boko Haram militants in the state have routinely denounced vaccination campaigns and prevented health workers from operating in the area.
Polio is a viral disease that usually affects children and can cause permanent paralysis. It is spread by poor sanitation and contaminated water, and can only be prevented through immunisation.
In 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, but the country has made significant strides in recent years, going two years without recording a single case.