Rotary international in Nigeria has urged Nigerians to support efforts towards raising awareness on polio and embrace the polio vaccination as it is the surest way to help the nation achieve its 2014 total polio eradication goal and join the league of polio-free countries for children, including India and America.
Past District Governor of Rotary and Chairman, Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee (NNPPC), Dr Tunji Funso who made this call in Lagos said, “While the whole world has recorded tremendous success in the fight against polio from the 125 endemic countries as at 1988, Nigeria alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan currently remain the three polio endemic countries but with consistent vaccination, the world would soon be free of polio just like it did with small pox.
Currently, Nigeria requires 1billion dosage of vaccine annually and NNPC is striving to raise $500million for the total eradication of polio in Nigeria alone.”
Speaking at the first Rotary Nigeria Bike-a-Thon, a charity cycling event organized in Lekki axis of Lagos on Saturday to mark the World Polio Day (Oct 24), Dr Funso expressed optimism on the drive towards a polio-free Nigeria and the world and argued that, “There is cause for celebration because as at 1988, 1000 children get infected daily by polio. Today, only 3 countries are left and with just about one case of polio every 2 days. As at October 4, 2013 Nigeria has only 1 confirmed circulating vaccine derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) in 1 state compared to 5 cases in 2 states same period in 2012. Also, there were 49 cases of confirmed WPV in 9 states compared to 101 cases in 11 states same period 2012.”
According to him, “This achievement was possible due to the relentless efforts of rotary international in driving the largest public private partnership in history by advocacy using its over 1.2million member volunteers around the world. While we advocate, raise funds and actively participate in immunizing children, our partners the governments of the world, WHO, UNICEF, and Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have been providing financial, technical and human resources to get the job done.”
He enjoined all to join hands with rotary and government to ensure vaccination of every child as it is the safest solution to the scourge, adding that the Bike-a-Thon event is one of Rotary’s intervention programs to step up the awareness level, draw attention of policy makers and further raise funds towards the end polio now project.
The NNPPC boss said so far 99 per cent success has been recorded in the fight against polio but only 100 per cent is good enough to make both Nigeria and the whole world safe for children below the age of 5 who are key targets of the deadly virus.
“We are 99 per cent on our way to eradicating polio but as every long distance runner knows it is that last mile that is most difficult and requires bringing out not only physical resources but mental as well.”
He said, “The World Polio Day is so designated to focus on the polio disease which until recently was a scourge affecting children all over the world.”
Funso noted: “It was Rotary international coming from the experience of successful immunization campaigns in the Philippines who in the early 80s proposed to the World Health Organization (WHO) to consider a programme to eradicate polio from the world. Hitherto the strategy was just to protect children from getting polio by giving routine immunization.”
He added, “This idea to eradicate polio took root leading to global polio eradication initiative (GPEI) launched by the world assembly in 1988. This was a commitment by all the governments of the world to work towards total eradication of polio.”
According to him, “The end game strategy for polio eradication requires that we continue to keep our eyes on the ball. Tremendous progress has been made in the high risk states in the north but we court disaster if we do not ensure all children in Nigeria are immunized against polio otherwise even most of the southern states that have been polio free for a few years now can see a re-emergence of polio with catastrophic consequences.”
He warned that everyone needs to join hands with others as polio free areas stand a great risk of infection as long as there are still cases of infection in any other location. He remarked that, “The recent outbreaks of polio in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan which have been polio free for some years are quite instructive in this regard. For as long as polio exist anywhere in the world no child is free from polio no matter where they live.”
“This is partly why this Rotary Bike-a-Thon took place in Lagos. To remind all and people in the southern part of the country that polio is still with us and we need to get the job of polio eradication done by working to end polio now.”
He cited America’s example of continuous immunization even after decades of zero polio infection.
“America still continues to immunize its children against polio though it has been polio free for about 40 years”, he noted.
He enjoined every Nigerian parent and guardian to embrace immunization as it is very safe and necessary to fortify children against polio.
“So let parents, guardian and care givers continue to take their children for immunization until polio is eradicated from the world.”
The Bike a Thon event was a one-day fun cycling ride organized to generate interest, increase awareness and raise funds for activities towards total eradication of polio disease which is endemic in Nigeria especially in the North.
Nollywood star actress and Rotary Polio Ambassador, Funke Akindele led other participants at the event joining other Rotary global icons around the world, including Bill Gates, Desmond Tutu, Isabella Fontana, Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and many others in creating awareness for Polio in a fun and practical way.
The programme which kicked off 7a.m at the Divine Mercy Catholic Church, Lekki Phase One open ground around the Lekki axis in Lagos featured registered and well kitted riders including Rotary club members, Cycology riding club members and others in a 5km, 10km and 50km exhibition ride. It also featured a variety of activities including cycling stunts, colourful displays and other physical demonstrations.”
The event was followed by a closing ceremony and featured other activities like guest lecture on Polio and certificate presentations to participants.
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