The news of the polio-free award the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation to the Zamfara state government is heart-warming worthy of celebration. It is significant for the fact that after all, all hope is not lost in the northern region of Nigeria. For a region that has earned a notoriety for the Boko Haram insurgency that has resulted in killing of thouss of innocent people caused massive destruction of property, the polio-free award is not only timely, but it is also a great relief. Zamfara state, which in 2012 won $750, 000from Bill Melinda Gates Foundation for being best routine immunisation performing state among North-west states, is to receive $500, 000 for being a free polio state within the last two years.
The Zamfara State Director of Primary Health Care, State Ministry of Health, Yusuf Musa Mafara, made the disclosure at a monthly routine meeting with all the 14 local government immunisation officers, in Gusau, the state capital, last week. He described the award as the outcome of routine immunisation stakeholders’ commitment towards improving the health sector of the state. Mafara said the state had not recorded any polio compatible case within the last two years, adding that, the last four polio virus cases in the state were in early 2012, which compelled the government key stakeholders to strengthen their efforts in ensuring that the state becomes polio-free.
He said the foundation has also agreed to invite the state governor to the United States for a colourful reception on the success recorded in the state. The director charged the 14 local council immunisation officers developmental partners supporting routine immunisation activities in the state to consider the development as worthy of appreciation, continue to render all their necessary support for the state to maintain improve its routine immunisation services across facilities in the state.
However, the breakthrough in polio-eradication in Zamfara state cannot is in isolation. In fact, it is a collaborative effort of the state’s health officials international donor agencies like the World Health Organisation (WHO), British Department for International Development (DFID) UNICEF.It was, therefore, appropriate that, thestate Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Kabir Janyau, acknowledged the supportive role of the WHO Coordinator in the state, Mr. Alpha Njie, in the eradication of polio cases in Zamfara state. The commissioner, who expressed appreciation for the support of the state WHO at a ceremony in honour of the state coordinator, said WHO had helped the state to achieve zero level of polio cases. He said that 76 cases of polio wild virus were recorded in 2004, but that with the support of WHO, there was no single case in 2013.
While Zamfara state has every reason to celebrate its polio success the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation awards in two consecutive years (2012 2013), we caution that the issue of healthcare delivery is beyond basking in the euphoria of polio eradication. For instance, malnutrition is reported to be prevalent in Bungudu Local Government Area of Zamfara state, ravaging over 30 percent of the populace. The nutrition focal person of the local government, Haliru Hassan, who lamented over the devastating effect of malnutrition in the communities, appealed to the state federal governments to come to the aid of the local government. The health condition is attributable to poor nutrition cultural beliefs like witchcraft attacks the enemies.