Government officials from across the Lake Chad sub-region call for a co-ordinated regional response following the recent wild polio cases in Nigeria
Following the recent detection of wild poliovirus in Nigeria, Ministers of Health from Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger and Nigeria have declared the polio outbreak in Nigeria as a public health emergency for countries of the Lake Chad basin. The declaration, coming out of the 66th session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee for the African Region, demonstrates commitment from governments across the region to bolster momentum in the fight against the virus.
A regional response to a regional risk
The declaration requests that Nigeria and all countries of the Lake Chad Basin, as a matter of the utmost urgency, fully implement coordinated outbreak responses in order to quickly interrupt this outbreak before the end of 2016 and prevent international spread. It calls on all Member States of countries of the Lake Chad Basin to extend all possible support, including political advocacy and engagement at all levels, for successful coordination and implementation of synchronized polio vaccination activities across the countries of the Lake Chad sub-region. The declaration builds on the sustained commitment of member states across the region in the path towards polio eradication, highlighted at the African Union summit in June 2015 where African heads of state gathered to declare polio eradication a “historical legacy for future generations”.
Immediate action, challenging terrain
An immediate response was mounted by the Nigerian government following the outbreak by quickly declaring it as a public health emergency and mobilizing the needed resources, with a large-scale vaccination campaign implemented and further rounds planned across the Lake Chad sub-region.
While challenging terrain lies ahead in beating the poliovirus for good, in Nigeria, and in Africa – not least because of the grave humanitarian situation in many of the countries around Lake Chad – the declaration of a regional emergency provides an important foundation for action, including the mobilization of necessary financial, political and technical support from partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and governments across the region.