President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday received a delisting certificate from the World Health Organisation (WHO) to indicate the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries.

Receiving the certificate from the Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan in Abuja, the President said in the past 14 months Nigeria had not recorded a new case of the polio virus.

According to him, the Federal Government will sustain the campaign against the polio virus until the country is free of the disease by 2017.

“I want to assure you that there will be no complacency, as we will maintain and improve on our surveillance system as well as raise the childhood population immunity against the polio virus to avoid any spread of the disease.

“The Federal Government will sustain the current momentum and we shall continue to regard this campaign as an emergency until we are declared polio free in the next two years.

“On August 31, 2015, I held a meeting with the High Advocacy Group whereby the Federal Ministry of Health was given a clear directive to come up with measures for enhanced effort towards ensuring the sustenance of this campaign.

“In pursuance of this anti-polio drive I held an expanded meeting of state governors and other stakeholders involving mainly representatives from the eleven polio high risk states, where the main issues requiring government’s attention were raised and discussed.

“I would like to reiterate the Federal Government’s commitment towards the achievement of a polio free Nigeria in 2017.’’

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The President reassured that government will sustain the needed funding for operations and vaccine procurement for the programme.

He stated that the Presidential Taskforce on Polio Eradication will be reconstituted under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health to provide political direction and over sighting order to avoid complacency and relapse.

Buhari commended vaccinators, community mobilisers, partners, parents and care-givers, traditional and religious leaders as well as development partners for their support towards making Nigeria polio free.

“I would like to commend the support of our traditional and religious leaders who have contributed immensely to the polio eradication efforts.

“By the same token, we thank development partners, particularly WHO, UNICEF, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, US-CDC, Rotary International, and a host of others who contributed financially and materially to the over-all efforts.’’

The President stated that he had instructed the Federal Ministry of Finance to ensure the basic healthcare provision fund under the 2016 Budget to ensure sustainability in the fight against polio and other communicable and non-communicable diseases.

He further said the National Health Act had made provision for universal access to basic healthcare with a focus on the poor and the vulnerable as well as the basic healthcare provision funds to support its implementation.

He pointed out that government was also working on a revised National Health Policy, which would have the achievement of Universal Health Coverage as its ultimate goal.

According to the President, his administration is also addressing the significant morbidity and mortality rates caused by neglected tropical diseases.

“These diseases disproportionately affect the poor and the vulnerable and as such are major concerns of this administration.

“We shall ensure that these diseases are no longer `neglected’.

“I wish to assure you that we shall continue to work together to achieve our mutual objectives in the whole field of medi-care.’’

In her remarks, the Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, described the removal of Nigeria from the list of polio-endemic countries as a remarkable achievement.

Represented by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, Chan attributed the achievement to Nigeria’s strong leadership and oversight as well as the people’s commitment and international solidarity.

She, however, enjoined Nigeria to ensure that in the next two years no child was paralysed by polio.

“However, it is very clear that even though polio transmission in Nigeria has been interrupted, we still have a long road to travel towards its eradication.

“Therefore, there is need for the efforts and investment to continue in order to sustain the gains to ensure that at the state level, local government chairmen are fully involved in supporting polio campaigns.

“And to ensure timely disbursement of the state’s counterpart funds to guarantee good quality campaigns.’’

She stated that the recently approved Country Cooperation Strategy between Nigeria and WHO provided a clear vision of the priority areas where WHO could provide the necessary technical support until the end of 2019.

According to Chan, the WHO Regional Office for Africa has articulated a five-year transformation agendum aimed at enhancing the performance of the WHO Secretariat in support of its member states, towards improved health.

In a presentation, Dr Ado Mohammed, the Executive Secretary, National Primary Health Development Agency, highlighted the challenges and achievements so far recorded in the ongoing campaign against the polio virus in the country.