Polio teams also set up shop on the boundaries of these insecure areas. Here, they could vaccinate children as they crossed back and forth and also enlist men and women to spot and report polio and other diseases from inside areas under insurgent control. In the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), polio teams stepped up their efforts, from carrying out vaccinations to taking stool samples from children to be tested for polio as they arrived.
Having already visited traditional and spiritual healers “to no avail,” Aisha finally discovered the cause of her son’s paralysis within days of arriving in an IDP camp, where a state surveillance system had been set up. Less than three weeks after the onset of Busami Modu’s paralysis, the family had a laboratory confirmation of wild poliovirus. Four years on from his diagnosis, Busami Modu remains the last child paralysed by the wild poliovirus in Nigeria, and therefore in Africa. “It is great news to us all in this community,” says Aisha, after hearing that wild polio was on the brink of eradication in Africa. When the African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication confirmed Nigeria’s wild polio-free status on 18 June 2020, the pride in having finally vanquished wild polio, against all odds, was shared by everyone across Nigeria.
Today, the infrastructure, the strategies, the innovations, the networks, and above all the resilience, which the polio programme leaves as its legacy are helping the country, and the African region tackle COVID-19 head on. Few parts of the world know what it takes to fight off an insidious disease better than the northern states of Nigeria.