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 Business News:
Amaechi\'s role to free Nigeria of the Polio Scourge
Jul 29, 2015
By: Philemon Adjekuko.








Nigeria: PH -

It has been about a year now since Nigeria recorded any case of polio.  For over 17 years, the disease was on rampage, especially in the northern part of the country. The country accounted for about 50 per cent of global and 80 per cent of African polio cases.  Nigeria was the face of the disease.

According to one medical source, \"polio is a viral illness that begins with flu-like symptoms of fever, headache, vomiting and/or diarrheal and muscle aching. The virus enters the body through the stomach and intestines. In some people, the virus can enter into the central nervous system and produce damage to motor nerve cells, whose function is to instruct muscles to move.\"

Concerned about the inability of national governments to tackle the rapid advance of the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 1988 launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), with the goal of eradicating the disease by the year 2000.  By 1996, WHO realised that the eradication initiative was not going as planned in terms of reducing the outbreak and spread of the disease. A massive booster immunisation initiative \"kick out polio\" was launched. The initiative was indeed ground breaking as vaccination was taken to the door steps of millions of children across the world, especially in vulnerable regions.  Nigeria was again, the poster child of the campaign.

According to Maryam Yahya, an anthropological researcher, everything was going on well until July 2003, when Kano, Zamfara and Kaduna States, halted the campaign on the ground   that \"the vaccines were deliberately contaminated with anti-fertility agents and the HIV virus\". There were also some cultural and political angles to the boycott.

The botched Trovan trial on 200 children against meningitis by Pfizer in 1996, which led to the death of at least five of them, provided another strong reason for the popularity of the call for boycott of the polio immunisation. The boycott was costly in both economic and human terms as more northern states joined. Most of those who managed to survive polio attack became severely and irreversibly deformed.

That was the state of things when then Governor Rotimi Amaechi took over as Chairman of Governor\'s Forum in May 2011. Health was on top of Amaechi\'s mind and he had a robust plan for primary, secondary and tertiary levels of the health sector in Rivers State. But he was greatly disturbed by the heavy toll polio was inflicting on the country, especially in the north.

Back in May 2014 when I asked Mr Asishana Okauru, DG of Governors\' Forum about how Amaechi went about the fight against polio, he was practically speechless. When he eventually got his voice back, he said he had never seen anything like it.

\"Ameachi made polio a permanent part of our agenda for at least 18 months. At every single meeting it was discussed. So, when you see that polio is being well managed today, it is because of his effort.   And I can tell you that it is that same spirit that helped the country with the outbreak of Ebola. With that state of mind, every time there is a challenge that should be handled at the sub-national level with a common governance template, you see all of them (the governors) moving in the same direction because of that mentality. So, when you have something consistently on your agenda for 18 months, there is just no way would you not make progress.\"

 


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