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FG, WHO confirm new polio cases in Borno

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Minister of Health,  Prof. Isaac Adewole

Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole

• To commence immunisation with military escorts
• UNFPA, Sultan, Ooni, others lead campaign on maternal, child health

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health confirmed two new cases of polio in Nigeria, yesterday, at an emergency meeting of its Expert Review Committee (ERC) on Polio and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria.

The cases of Wild Polio Virus were recorded in Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas of Borno State. An urgent three-phase immunisation plan has been unveiled, with military escorts mobilised to accompany vaccinators.

The development, however, did not come to many as a surprise, as an expert confided in The Guardian that for about three years, vaccinators have not had regular access to children in the areas.

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“Only 15 per cent of Gwoza community has been accessible to vaccinators in a very long time. Outbreak response activities have, however, been planned and include initial emergency immunisation on August 15. There will also be three separate broader responses on August 27, September 24 and October 22,” the source said.

In an interview with some journalists in Abuja, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, described the development as a setback for the country.Meanwhile, some prominent traditional rulers and religious leaders were commissioned, yesterday, to lead the campaign to boost maternal and child health in the country.

The goodwill ambassadors include the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar.Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told participants at a National Family Planning stakeholders’ meeting at the State House in Abuja that the ambassadors would advocate family planning issues within and outside the country.The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and USAID.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Urging state governments to improve investments in sexual and reproductive health, Osinbajo said: “Although the exact number of women who die during pregnancy and child birth is unknown in the country, estimates from surveys and other scientific calculations show that our maternal mortality ratio is 576 per 100,000 live births. Nigeria contributes the largest number of maternal deaths in Africa and about 14 per cent of maternal deaths worldwide.”

Under Secretary of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, described family planning as a highly cost-effective investment, noting: “The $8.6 million worth of contraceptives supplied through UNFPA in 2015 to Nigeria could save the country $39 million in maternal health care costs.”

The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, described universal access to family planning as a human right issue central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Admitting “challenges in the past with regards to mobilising government resources due to the political transition process,” Adewole said the ministry is “doubling efforts in enlisting the support of the Ministries of Finance, and Budget and National Planning to enable us realise our commitments.”

He added: “Our efforts have so far yielded some fruits and we are proud to inform you that family planning was prioritised in the 2016 budget. We are optimistic that we will be able to continue to meet up with our obligations next year, through 2020.”

He said: “I can assure the nation that we will do everything possible to be on top of the situation. We are meeting again today. We had a meeting, yesterday, to look at the situation. We are drawing out an emergency plan. And in the next 48 hours, we are dispatching a team there to start immunisation.”


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