Africa Regional Certification Commission meeting begins in Abuja

Gloria Essien, Abuja

The African Regional Certification Commission,  ARCC, has opened in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
The meeting is aimed at accessing polio eradication progress in Africa and way forward.
Speaking at the event, the Chairman of the ARCC, Professor Rose Leke, appreciated Nigeria’s polio eradication initative.
She said the Commission decided to come host its meeting in Nigeria to learn about the progress being made in the country.
“The ARCC has therefore proposed to hold this important annual meeting in Nigeria to learn about progress being made in the country on the polio eradication initiative and also meet with the highest authorities to extend our gratitude for their tireless efforts and advocate for more political commitment at the highest level. There is need for very high sensitive surveillance, high quality of polio campaigns and strengthened routine immunisation with no complacency”, Professor Leke said.
She said that remarkable progress has been made towards interruption of the transmission of Wild Poliovirus in the African region.
The Chairperson also noted that the commission recognises the coordinated efforts of the Lake Chad Task Team despite all the challenges.
“Despite the marked progress, we have to remain more vigilant to avoid missing any transmission or importation of poliovirus especially in security compromised area”, she advised.
She added that several initiatives including the use of technological innovations are being conducted to ensure access to inaccessible and hard to reach areas as well as mobile population to implement high quality surveillance and immunisation activities.
The Nigerian minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole,  said that Nigeria’s decision to host the meeting is anchored on the countries resolve to liberate Nigeria and indeed Africa from the scourge of poliomyelitis.
He noted that he was aware that the overall objective of the meeting is to continue strengthening polio eradication certification activities in the region.
Objectives of the meeting
To update participants on the status of polio eradication initiative globally and in the African region.
To review the status of implementation of the recommendations of December 2017 ARCC meeting.
To critically review the complete documentation (including the national preparedness and response plans to polio events/outbreaks as well as their updated report on polio laboratory containment activities) prepared by Madagascar.
To critically review the progress and update reports prepared by Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Angola, South Sudan, Central Africa republic, Mauritania and Nigeria in polio eradication activities (including their national preparedness and response plans to polio events/outbreaks; and their updated reports on polio laboratory containment activities).
Professor Adewole added that Africa is making very remarkable progress towards the eradication of poliomyelitis in the region.
“In 2012, the African Region reported 128 wild poliovirus (WPV) cases, which accounted for more than half of the global burden. However, in 2013, about seventy-six cases were reported; in 2014, about 17cases; no case was reported in 2015. Nonetheless, in 2016, after almost two years, four cases were confirmed from areas that were under Boko Haram Insurgency in Borno State in Nigeria. As you all know the outbreak was successfully contained and in a timely manner too”, he said.
The minister of health also said that following the last out break in Nigeria, the Nigeria Polio program mounted an aggressive outbreak response that span beyond Borno State.
“There were 11 quality campaigns with scope varying from Borno and immediate neighbouring states to sub national campaigns and synchronization with Lake Chad basin countries. Close collaboration with the military and civilian Joint Task Force in Borno has facilitated increased accessibility to the programme. An estimated 71% of settlements in Borno have been accessed for vaccination at least once.  
Surveillance efforts have been ramped up including expansion of the community surveillance network and increase in environmental surveillance sites. Innovative surveillance approaches in security-compromised areas are also being implemented”, Professor Adewole added.
He told the meeting that Nigeria is certainly not resting on its oars, despite that its greatest challenge is that of accessibility to all eligible children particularly in parts of the northeast, especially Borno State.
“We would not be quick to state that we have successfully truncated transmission until every part of our beloved country is accessible to the vaccination and surveillance teams. Nevertheless we are confident that this will happen sooner than expected as our armed forces are doing extremely well to overwhelm the Boko Haram insurgency”, the health minister said.
He used the opportunity to assure the African Regional Certification Commission that Nigeria and indeed Africa will soon be polio free adding that the government of Nigeria will continue to provide all the required human and material resources to finish the job of polio eradication.
On his part, the World Health Organization Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Wondi Alemu, congratulated Africa for not recording any new case of Wild Poliovirus in the last twenty two months.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, appealed to donors to continue to support the agency to achieve the collective goal of a polio free Nigeria.
“We will continue to make our surveillance increasingly sensitive”, he said.
 He said that the agency is working towards covering high risk states like Borno and other north eastern states.
The African Regional Certification Commission is an independent body established in 1998 by the Regional Director of the WHO Africa Region to oversee the process and the only body that can certify that the African region is polio free.
Bilkisu Pai