Cases of polio in Nigeria are droppingBMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7362.493 (Published 31 August 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:493
EDITOR—Raufu reports that the number of cases of poliomyelitis has risen in Nigeria,1 but evidence shows that the number of confirmed cases of poliomyelitis has fallen since the start of the polio eradication initiative. It is true that both routine immunisation and the initiative suffered a setback in northern Nigeria as a result of propaganda fuelled by a cassette recording by an American organisation that was widely circulated among the Muslim community. The recording claimed that immunisation was a ploy by Western governments to promote family planning and infect children with HIV. As a result, many parents refused immunisation for their children in 2000 and 2001.
However, Nigeria's government mobilised traditional and religious leaders (the Ulama), who campaigned assiduously to counter the propaganda, with tremendous success. Both routine immunisation and the polio eradication initiative are now fully accepted except in a few areas (minor pockets of resistance) in Niger, Jigawa, and Kano States, as reported by Raufu. Immediate intervention by traditional and religious leaders in those areas resulted in the parents inviting the immunisation teams to return and immunise the children, which was done.
The polio eradication initiative took off in Nigeria only in 1998. In 1999 hundreds of cases of acute flaccid paralysis were reported, with 98 confirmed to be due to wild poliovirus. Last year there were 57 confirmed wild poliovirus cases, whereas this year only 29 cases were confirmed by early June. The number of cases of wild poliovirus has actually been falling, which makes the title of Raufu's news item highly misleading.