Governor Kashim Shettima has explained reasons for fresh cases of polio in Borno State blaming it on impossibility of accessing communities to administer polio preventive vaccines from December, 2013 to end of 2015 as well as the earliest part of 2016.
The Governor spoke on Sunday in Mainok village in Kaga local government area shortly before launching one million dollars food and farming aid donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which targets distribution of food items and funding of farming activities to benefit 40,000 victims of the Boko Haram insurgency who are being resettled to their communities.
Shettima is reacting for the first time since two cases of polio were declared in Borno last week, a development that many saw as a major setback in Nigeria’s successful fight against polio.
“Back in November, 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even awarded Borno State for being the most committed to fighting polio in the northeast despite our insurgency. It is however unfortunate that last week, fresh cases of polio were identified in Borno. While this is officially painful and personally embarrassing to me as an award winner in polio eradication, the basis of the recent outbreak of polio is largely due to the unimaginable condition we found ourselves. I have seen one commentator saying Borno was dragging the country backward on polio eradication. From December 2013 to the end of 2015, we had hundreds of communities in 20 local government areas seized by Boko Haram; many roads were practically under their command; citizens including young children wandered for months around the deserts and forests, scampering for safety in the wake of attacks by Boko Haram on their communities; thousands of citizens were trapped in communities around the Sambisa, around the shores of the lake Chad and around territories being administered by Boko Haram; thousands, including pregnant women and children, were held captive by Boko Haram while hundreds of children were even born in captivity. Every one can bear testimony that it was impossible for the Government to have sustained its wide reach in polio immunization under such an atmosphere of war. Now under the current administration, most communities have been freed and this made it possible to diagnose the health of children held captive and those hitherto trapped. We all know that a problem identified is a problem half solved. Our communities are mostly free and this makes room for a critical round of aggressive polio eradication campaign in Borno. Unlike before, we don’t envisage the killing of health workers administering polio and other preventive vaccines in most of our communities which they couldn’t access since 2014. The tide has now changed. In the past, our people were those running but today, it is Boko Haram that is on the run” the Governor said.