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POLIO ERADICATION: IMMUNIZATION DRIVE, PHILANTHROPY AND POLITICAL WILL A NECESSARY MEANS

28 February 2014

By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

"It is unacceptable that polio continues to infect our children and cause such suffering in Nigeria." Sir Emeka Offor 

There is no denying the fact that the polio scourge has become a challenge to many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Its effect continues to hunt us because of several reasons that have to do with culture, religion among others. In Nigeria for example, and according to polio Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Nigeria is believed to have one of the most entrenched reservoirs of wild poliovirus in the world. It is the only country with on-going transmission of all three serotypes: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2. States in the north of the country are the main source of polio infections elsewhere in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries. In 2009, operational improvements in these northern states led to a 90% decline in cases of wild poliovirus type 1 and a 50% decline in overall cases compared with 2008.  

Several efforts in the last couple of years have witnessed a level of reduction in polio cases across the country. Quite recently, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, noted that the Federal Government would partner with leading stakeholders in order to eradicate polio by the end of 2014. This was made known after Nigeria's impressive performance on polio eradication in 2012 and 2013 provided a clear indicator that the country would end polio transmission at the end of this year. Despite the aggressive drive by the current government to see that polio is eradicated from our society, some individuals have taken up the challenge even more aggressively to fill the vacuum left. One of such individual is Sir Emeka Offor, the founder of The Chrome Group, one of Nigeria's leading indigenous multinational businesses with subsidiaries operating in oil and gas exploration and production, oil and gas servicing, engineering, insurance, logistics and power industries.  

Through the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), efforts are underway in partnership with Rotary Club to kick-off the National Immunization Day in Oraifite, Anambra State on March 1st 2014. The exercise, which is one of the myriads of philanthropic commitments of SEOF, is geared towards global efforts in polio eradication. The founder of SEOF, Sir Emeka Offor has over the years demonstrated compassion to all children, widows and to the welfare of the weak and poor in our society.  

In July 2013, to boost the global efforts in polio eradication, he donated a total of $1M of his personal money to Rotary International. Such singular contribution earned him the title of First Polio Ambassador of Nigeria. His philanthropic gestures are not limited to cash donations. Sir Emeka Offor strongly speaks out in favor of polio eradication in Nigeria and the world. He believes that every child should have a "right to health", esteeming the mantra of noble global humanitarian body like World Health Organization (WHO). 

Where we are

Since the global polio eradication initiative began in 1988, WHO has recorded a 99% reduction in number of cases from about 353,000 down to 221 in 2012. The fight for total eradication of polio, particularly in the known 3 endemic regions (Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan) is in full swing; because no child is safe until polio has been completely eradicated. To add to the benevolent donation of $1M by Sir Emeka Offor, Rotary Club has in the month of February released about $36M towards the fight against Polio.  

Where we are going

In February 2012, WHO removed India from the list of polio-endemic countries, making it a momentous medical achievement. This status was possible due to massive financial support, advocacy, relentless research and strong political will. Nigeria can therefore, join the league of polio free nations when we address low routine immunization rates and surveillance gaps in polio free areas, maintain funding and political commitment to implement the eradication strategies. 

As a proud Nigerian and the First Polio Ambassador of Nigeria, Sir Emeka Offor desires that every child should be immunized to protect against polio virus infection. He is committed to making Nigeria a polio free nation. On Saturday, March 1st 2014, he will be rolling up his sleeves to administer polio vaccine to a number of children gathering at SEOF Complex in Oraifite, Anambra State at 10:30am. 

Sir Emeka Offor calls on all Nigerians, entrepreneurs, oil and gas icons, politicians and civil society leaders to join him in stepping up the fight against polio. He calls on all parents regardless of their religious orientation to embrace global efforts on polio eradication, abandon all unscientific and superstitious dogmas and ensure that every child is vaccinated. 

In the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, "As an international community, we have few opportunities to do something that is unquestionably good for every country and every child, in perpetuity." 

Our children have every right to live a normal life and develop in ways that will give them satisfaction to achieve their life long ambitions and ideals. We must all come together to see that polio is not only fought and eradicated but also become a thing of the past in our respective societies and our dear country, Nigeria. We our children this favour and through the SEO Foundation, we can begin to beat our chest to say we have gotten there.  

Dr. Edwin Ndukwe

Austin Texas

edwin.ndukwe@gmail.com

 

  EsinIslam.Com

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