By Prudence Arobani
New York – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is targeting no fewer than 115 million children for polio immunisation in Nigeria and across Africa from Monday, in its continuing bid to wipe out the crippling disease from the continent.
WHO, in a statement on Thursday, said all children under five are being targeted by more than 190,000 vaccinators in 13 Central and West African countries, including Nigeria, Congo and the Central African Republic.
“Eradicating polio requires reaching more than 90 per cent of vulnerable children and rigorous surveillance, tasks that have proven nearly impossible in war-torn areas.
“Last year, WHO identified several polio cases in northern Nigeria despite previously declaring the country “polio-free”.
“Nigeria is thought to be the only country in Africa where polio is spreading.
“Elsewhere, polio continues to sicken children in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” the UN health agency said.
According to WHO, polio cases have decreased by over 99 per cent since 1988.
In 2016, WHO identified polio cases in northeastern Nigeria in spite of previously declaring the country “polio-free”.
“Today, only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988.
“Failure to implement strategic approaches, however, leads to ongoing transmission of the virus.
“Endemic transmission is continuing in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“Failure to stop polio in these last remaining areas could result in as many as 200 000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.”