African commission begins verification visit to Nigeria

The Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for poliomyelitis eradication will on Monday begin to assess if Nigeria has successfully eradicated wild poliovirus.

This is the first step in the verification process that will determine if Nigeria will eventually join the league of countries which have eliminated the disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a press statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES said ARCC has invited Nigeria to present its final documentation to receive a wild polio-free status in June 2020.

It added that the verification process is expected to last two weeks.

The monitoring agency is to conduct critical analysis and verify the accuracy of the certification documents prepared by the Nigerian Government.

The Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said ARCC has planned two field verification visits in order for the country to get the certification.

The first is to the southern states from December 9 to 20 and the second is to the northern states, from March 2 to 13, 2020.

WHO also said the independent commission has already accepted the documentation of 43 African countries as part of the process to certify the African Region free of all types of wild polio virus.

Verification

The WHO Nigeria Team Lead, Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), Fiona Braka, said the verification exercise became necessary because the country has achieved the “milestones of primary requirements”( no case detected in three years).

“The ARCC will first review the complete documentation report of the interruption of wild poliovirus type 1 and then proceed to conduct field verification visits to select states in the south of Nigeria.

“If the ARCC is satisfied with the national documentation and field verification after both visits in December 2019 and March 2020, the WHO African Region could be certified to have eradicated polio by mid-2020,” she said.

The ARCC for Polio Eradication was appointed by the WHO African Regional Director, Matishidio Moeti, to serve as the principal advisory body that reviews country-level certification reports submitted to it and formulate recommendations for regional/country certification.

ARCC members are charged with reviewing certification documentation from all 47 countries in the WHO African Region and verifying the absence of poliovirus in the presence of certification-standard surveillance.

The commission meets biannually to review certification documentation and updates from countries in the region.

The primary requirements for the region’s certification include that no wild poliovirus transmissions are detected for a minimum of three consecutive years in all the region’s countries, coupled with having a high quality certification standard acute flaccid paralysis surveillance, a clinical symptom of poliomyelitis, in all countries for those three years.

Other considerations include that countries maintain high immunisation coverage for oral polio vaccine, as well as maintaining robust national polio outbreak preparedness and response plan and a functional National Polio Certification Committee.

During the verification visit to Nigeria, nine ARCC members will assess the strides made so far in the fight against polio and deliberate on key resolutions in view of Nigeria’s polio status

Africa

The last known record of wild polio detected in Africa was in 2016. The last wild poliovirus-caused paralysis was detected in August 2016 in Nigeria, while the last environment sample with traces of the wild poliovirus was detected in Kaduna State from a sewage sample collected in May 2014.

Since then, Nigeria and its developmental partners have been working painstakingly to eradicate the disease in Nigeria and get Africa to join the five other continents who have achieved the feat.

For now, Nigeria, Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, and Cameroon – are the ones holding Africa back from getting the Polio Certification.

If Africa succeeds, Asia (Pakistan, Afghanistan) will be the only continent left battling the disease.

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