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Cablegate: Nigeria: Encouraging Political Support for Polio

VZCZCXRO7857
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHUJA #1591/01 2241240
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 111240Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY ABUJA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3643
INFO RUEHOS/AMCONSUL LAGOS PRIORITY 9775
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHDC
RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ABUJA 001591

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

USDA FOR FAS RON VERDONK, PATRICK PACKNETT
USAID FOR AA/GLOBAL HEALTH, KENT HILL; GH/HIDN, RICHARD GREENE,
ELLYN OGDEN

E.O. 12958
TAGS: TBIO PGOV ECON EAID SOCI KISL KOCI NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: ENCOURAGING POLITICAL SUPPORT FOR POLIO
ERADICATION

REF: A. STATE 65054
B. ABUJA 815

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE USG

1. (SBU) Summary: Per reftel A request, the Mission re-conveyed to
the Government of Nigeria (GON) the importance of polio eradication
in Nigeria. The GON replied that it has set up a Technical
Committee on Immunization and Polio Eradication because of the World
Health Assembly (WHA) resolution regarding an increase in the number
of wild polio virus infected children in Nigeria and neighboring
countries. The Mission has strongly encouraged the GON to make
polio eradication a political priority and will continue to dialog
on this issue, in concert with other bilateral and multilateral
donors, at the highest levels as well as with key stakeholders such
as state and local government officials in northern Nigeria,
traditional leaders and clergy. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The GON formed a Technical Committee (TC) on Immunization
and Polio Eradication on June 27 during a meeting chaired by the
Acting Minister of Health, Dr. Muhammed Hassan Lawal. The Acting
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Shehu Sule,
attended and Dr. Abdulsalami Nasidi, the Minister's new Special
Advisor for Polio Eradication, was appointed the TC
Secretary/Coordinator. The goal of the TC is to improve and
increase collaboration and synchronization between the governments
of Nigeria and Niger to prevent further spreading of the wild polio
virus.

3. (SBU) The TC was set up in response to the May 25 2008 WHA
resolution which singled out Nigeria for strong criticism due to the
increasing wild polio virus transmission rate in the Northern
states. In meetings with donor partners, Dr. Sule expressed
government embarrassment and humiliation for Nigeria's role in
"re-infecting the world" (Reftel A). He emphasized that the GON is
committed to immunization efforts and preventing polio's spread.

Mission Engagement at the Highest Level
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Ambassador has met with President Yar'Adua twice since
January 2008 and has stressed the importance the USG places on GON
actions to stop and eradicate the spread of wild polio virus. She
and USAID Mission Director also spoke at length on the subject at
meeting in April that included a number of Nigerian Ministers and
Ministers of State. The Ambassador also raised this issue in July
with the Sultan of Sokoto (the leader of Nigeria's Muslim
community), the First Lady of Kano State (where polio has been a
particular problem) the Emir of Zazau (the traditional ruler of
Zaria, a prominent Northern city) and the Governor of Kwara State,
who is also the Chair of the Governors Forum.

5. (SBU) High level USG advocacy, in coordination with colleagues
from the British Department for International Development (DFID),
the World Bank and the World Health Organization Country Mission,
has reinforced these messages from the Ambassador. Following a
recent Interagency Coordinating Committee meeting questioning
immunization reporting, the GON recognized the shortcomings to date
and established the Immunization and Polio Eradication Initiative,
programming a series of immunization campaign days focusing first on
northern states on Nigeria's international borders, followed by
other northern Nigerian states with continued high levels of
children with zero polio vaccine doses. (Comment: While the
initiative is a welcome one, it has yet to be demonstrated if it
will in fact lead to significantly better performance in the field.
End Comment.)

6. USAID officials continue to meet regularly with Federal and
State Ministry of Health officials, traditional and religious
leaders to emphasize the importance of commitment and action from
all levels of leadership. AIDOFFs have carried out far reaching
field visits to highlight the need for improved training and
supervision of immunization teams, improved and timely flow of
government resources to local wards and districts for campaigns, and
more reliable distribution of vaccines. On July 29, the USAID
Mission Director, along with other development partners and the
Acting Minister of Health, participated in a meeting with the First
Lady of Nigeria and several Northern State Government First Ladies
on polio eradication. The First Lady urged her state-level
counterparts to participate in immunization activities and stressed
the need for their early engagement.

7. (SBU) USAID's COMPASS Polio project facilitated an assembly of
religious, traditional and local government leaders in Kano on July
31 that was led by the Emir of Kano's personal representative and

ABUJA 00001591 002 OF 002


Dr. Nasidi from the Federal Ministry of Health. That meeting
sponsored frank discussions of the inadequacies of current
vaccination efforts, the need for full support of polio eradication
efforts by the Islamic clergy and the risks to Nigerian
participation in the annual Hajj, as a result of the spread of wild
polio virus. Federal and State health ministry officers, along with
local government chairmen for the northern Nigeria districts, will
meet again in Gusau Zamfara State on August 7 - 9 to devise an
operational plan for vaccination efforts in August and September, as
well as the integrated measles campaign proposed for November.
AIDOFFs will attend that meeting to further intensify USG advocacy
efforts and support for practical measures.

8. (SBU) Comment: It is essential that state and local government
officials assume personal responsibility and accountability for the
performance of immunization teams in their respective territories.
Teams need to take on a much more proactive posture in chasing down
children with zero or few vaccine doses. Independent and objective
monitoring of performance is essential. Islamic clergy, including
Friday mosque imams, can regularly emphasize the need for vaccine
compliance in their sermons. Some further technical assistance in
behavior change communication may be required to better assess the
take-up of key radio immunization messages and enhance the content
and format to address those concerns and worries that may persist
among parents and lead to reduced levels of compliance in the
northern states. Finally, those states that are taking positive and
constructive steps, demonstrating leadership, creativity and better
performance, need to be showcased and highlighted as examples for
the other northern states. End Comment.

PIASCIK

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