Nigeria’s health minister, Isaac Adewole, has confirmed that there has been a fresh outbreak of polio in the north eastern state of Borno State.
“One of the cases is from Gwoza, which is actually close to the [Cameroonian] border. The other one is Jere. We suspect that both of them are linked to the insurgents,” the minister told members of the press in Abuja, hours after health officials had leaked the information to the media.
“It is unfortunate that we have the development. It has set us back. But I can assure the nation that we will do everything possible to be on top of the situation.”
Adewole denied the new cases were a result of poor funding for vaccination programs, as has been insinuated by Nigeria’s opposition.
Both Gwoza and Jere are in northeastern Borno state, the heartbeat of the Boko Haram insurgency that has raged since 2009.
It is important to note that the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan made great strides in eradicating this terrible disease in the peak of the Boko Haram campaign against the Nigerian state. Also, President Muhammadu Buhari ran on the platform of eradicating Boko Haram within 3 months of office.
Last December, Buhari hastily declared Boko Haram defeated and that they no longer dreaded Islamist group no longer holds any territory in the country. His government continues to claim that the terrorists have been decimated despite evidence to the contrary.
The minister said everything would be done to tackle the cases as well as ensuring polio does not resurface on a large scale.
Thursday’s news comes just a year after the World Health Organization gave July 2017 as the date to certify Nigeria being polio free, provided no new cases are reported within the period.
Two children in Gwoza and Jere local government areas of the state were affected, according to a statement on Thursday, August 11, 2016 signed by Olajide Oshundun, a spokesperson in the federal health ministry.
“Our overriding priority right now is to rapidly boost immunity in the affected areas to ensure that no more children are affected by this terrible disease,” Professor Adewole said in the statement.
“A national emergency response team comprising government and partners to Borno state will be deployed for immediate and robust vaccination campaign, targeting eligible children to prevent the spread of the virus locally and internationally.”
The new polio cases are the first to be recorded in Nigeria in two years.
Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, the federal government worked to end the preventable disease in the country. So much that Nigeria was declared polio free and set on the path to be declared polio free by the World Health Organisation in 2017.
Only this week health and development partners lamented that the federal ministry of finance is still withholding N13 billion allocated in the 2016 budget for routine immunisation of kids, warning that this could reverse the gains recorded under the previous administration.
The health ministry said in its statement that as an immediate response, one million children are to be immunised in four local government areas in Borno state, while another four million will be immunised in the adjoining states of Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe.