Written by Dr. G. Stanley O’Koye
Polio has been identified as one of the most damaging diseases which can snatch away a child’s physical, mental and emotional stimulus to lead a normal, healthy and happy life. This is why; countries across the world have been working together closely to develop a strong Public Health Campaign for complete and total polio eradication since 1988. In most parts of the world, particularly the western nations, the devastating complication of polio is rarely seen today. Even when poliovirus infection occurs in these areas it is the least harmful strain of poliovirus. In addition, there is adequate vaccine to protect against such poliovirus infection. In contrast, less developed countries including Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, the strain of poliovirus is the wild harmful type.
In countries such as Nigeria, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt, thousands of innocent children have been crippled for life due to the transmission of the wild polio virus (Paralytic poliovirus). The strain of poliovirus often may lead to the complications of temporary or permanent muscle weakness, paralysis, disability, and deformities of the hips, ankles and feet. In some cases, the deformities caused by poliovirus infection can be reduced with surgery and physical therapy. Such expensive and intense treatments are not readily available in developing nations where polio is still endemic. As a result, most persons who survive death from polio often live with severe disabilities and low productive lives to even support their families. However, proper and timely immunization campaigns, however, especially in India have helped in reducing and controlling the spread of this life changing disease.
Even though all it takes is to vaccinate each and every child under five with the polio vaccine to achieve global polio eradication, this has not been the case especially in Nigeria due to lack of funds and disjointed running of the immunization campaign. In the recent past, however, Nigeria has shown evidence of a reduction in polio cases thanks to the selfless and commendable work done by the ‘Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’, a joint venture by Microsoft Founder, Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates.
In a meeting recently, the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan publicly expressed his gratitude for the outstanding work done by Bill Gates and his wife in delivering better healthcare services not just in Nigeria but all over the world. He further admired the contributions made by them both in terms of time and money which has resulted in a drop in the number of polio cases from couple of hundreds in 2009 to just a about three cases this year.
Today, Northern Nigeria has emerged as the only place in the world that has seen so much progress in its goal towards polio reduction and subsequent polio eradication in such a short span of time.
Author: G. Stanley Okoye, M.D., Ph.D. , Chief Medical Correspondent, Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) and St. Jude Medical Missions ( firstname.lastname@example.org).