"Eradication of polio in Nigeria crucial for India "
The global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) - a spearheading group of Rotary International, UNICEF, WHO and CDC - along with national governments across the globe are close to wiping out polio from the face of the earth, but the dreaded disease in endemic countries like Nigeria still remains a big concern for India, said a top official.
Despite being geographically far from India, the fact that a large number of Indians live in south Nigeria, for trade and employment, there is a possibility of polio being transmitted back to India, said Rotary International.
Nigeria has seen an upsurge in polio cases, where cases of polio increased from 62 in 2011 to 101 in 2012, with the continuous risk that people in neighboring polio-free countries become infected again.
According to Past President Rotary International Raja Saboo who have traversed the African region on different humanitarian missions for Rotary, "Certain sections of the population in Nigeria are resisting immunization for their children. The refusal is on grounds like religion and some just misconceptions.
"Also some areas in northern part of Nigeria, access and reach is still a big challenge and hence a big concern for the neighboring polio-free countries and those with ties."
Saboo will be guiding the medical mission to Nigeria with the view to create an atmosphere of goodwill and also to support the inadequate health services in one of the third Polio endemic country after Pakistan and Afghanistan, the only in Africa.
Rotary members in Nigeria and the national government said they are fully engaged in the mission and will be helping in identifying and ferrying needy patients/polio victims to the camps.
A team of 24 Indian doctors and volunteers - from across the country - will soon fly from Mumbai on a 10-day mission to Abuja in Nigeria, to conduct surgeries to correct deformities arising from polio. Rotary had conceived the mission in 1998, the year it had taken a team of Indian doctors to Uganda.
Earlier this year, a team of Polio experts (of WHO-NPSP) - from India visited Nigeria to support Polio surveillance and monitoring facilities, lessons that finally helped India eradicate the virus.
Experts working on Polio from both UNICEF India and Rotary India visited the country on lessons exchange mission in the past. These lessons stressed on micro-planning, motivating religious leaders, mapping the habitants where services do not reach, tracking high risk areas and motivating communities which are resistant etc.
"Each country is different with its own set of issues and challenges, but Nigeria can model and at also replicate efforts proved successful in India to address some similar problems. The country made strong progress in 2010 but slipped backward in 2011," said Saboo.
With bilateral trade of over USD 17.3 billion, India is currently Nigeria's second largest trading partner. Amongst other things, the two countries trade rice, transport equipment, machinery and instruments, drugs, pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals and electronic goods, textile and handicraft items.
Of late, Pakistan has been emulating India's surveillance and monitoring system and successfully implementing some of the strategies exchanged, after experts from India visited Pakistan.
Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the Pakistani Prime Minister's national focal person on polio eradication, led a nine-member delegation to India early this year.
The number of polio cases in India saw a steep fall with no cases reported in the last two years, one case and the last so far reported in 2011, 42 cases in 2010 and 741 in 2009.
India remains cautious despite strong and continued progress against the Polio virus in the light of emerging cases and outbreak in endemic countries like Nigeria and Pakistan.
Rotary International, the spearheading partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative along with WHO, UNICEF and CDC has been fighting for the cause of polio since 1988 in India.