Cablegate: Nigeria: Status of Polio Eradication

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: ABUJA 00433

1. This cable provides an update on the current
situation related to polio eradication in Nigeria,
including actions in process and to be undertaken over
the next two-week period.
Kano State remains the lone hold-out since the last
cable, with Zamfara State hosting the well attended and
well publicized National Flag-off Ceremony on Monday,
22 March 2004, presided over by President Obasanjo.
Even with the success of the Flag-off, however, there
remain significant pockets of doubt and confusion among
all levels of the population, including the very well
educated, professional levels.
All relevant donor Agency personnel are in the field
this week for monitoring of the second round of
national immunization days (NIDs), which concludes
today, Thursday, 25 March.
2. The Zamfara State Flag-off ceremony was a well-
reported success, receiving largely favorable, positive
treatment in the media. President Obasanjo delivered
the keynote address and pledged to be personally
involved in the eradication campaign to ensure complete
success. During the ceremonies, the Sultan of Sokoto
urged all Muslims to bring their children to be
immunized. In addition to the President, the Minister
of Health and the Sultan, an impressive list of
dignitaries from the north and elsewhere, including
donor Agency Heads, were on hand for the flag-off.
3. In spite of the success of the Flag-off, a weekly
newspaper, "The Path," from Sokoto said in their March
24 issue that there remains lingering resistance to the
polio vaccine in Zamfara state. Reporting from Gusau,
the capital city of Zamfara, the Path's reporter said
that only 3 out of 70 parents questioned said they
would immunize their children. The remainder of the
article listed positive statements from the Sultan of
Sokoto, various emirs, and provided good coverage of
the governor's and other officials' children being
immunized. It is clear that it will take some time to
reorient average people on this issue.
4. The 8 northern Governors met with the Kano
Governor on Friday, 19 March 2004. A usually reliable
source of information in Kano reports that no change
was effected on the Kano State position as a result of
that meeting. The Governor is still insisting that he
be allowed to purchase his own vaccines for his state.
Any information we receive that differs from this will
be reported in a later cable.
5. Also reported to us was a meeting of the Ulamas in
Kano on 22 March, with the same outcome - a firm
resolve that Kano purchase their own oral polio vaccine
(OPV) henceforth.
6. We expect to obtain a copy next week of the
videotape that was made of the meeting held in Kano and
hosted by the Governor of Kano, wherein the decision
was taken to reject the OPV supplied by the National
Program on Immunization in favor of supplying their
own. The meeting was conducted in Hausa language and,
when received, we will have it interpreted in hopes it
will shed light on a rationale for the persistent

7. Pending reports from the field evaluating the
second round of NIDs, it is not yet known whether the
Bauchi State Governor carried out his promise to
support the round with health personnel as vaccinators,
including the payment of their stipends. Details will
be in subsequent cable.

8. A Kaduna-based Human Rights organization is
considering bringing legal action against the Supreme
Council for Sharia over their opposition to the OPV.
The organization considers this to be a violation of
the child's rights to immunization and protection from
the crippling disease of polio.

9. It is being reported in the local press that all
of the former Heads of State from the North assured the
U.N. Special Representative, Prof. Gambari, during his
recent trip to Nigeria that they are in favor of polio
immunization. These statements imply favorable
opportunities for advocacy actions from any or all of
them to the Kano Governor.

10. Also noted, based upon numerous interactions with
groups such as the Federation of Muslim Women's
Organizations in Nigeria (FOMWON), is a lack of clear
and accurate information on basic medical issues
related to immunizations, suggesting immediate
possibilities for all donor agencies to collaborate on
creating and making widely available informational

11. USAID took part, together with WHO, UNICEF and the
Federal Government of Nigeria in a UNICEF-sponsored
meeting on 19 March, 2004, to sensitize high-level
health professionals from across the country. The
presentations generated much discussion and provided an
opportunity to clear up misconceptions and
misunderstandings. All states were represented in the
audience, including Kano State, and good progress was
made toward mutual understanding. A full report of the
meeting is not yet available from UNICEF.

12. Donors will reconvene their coordination meetings
the week following the return of all agency personnel
from their field monitoring duties. The next meeting
will be a review of the first two NIDs rounds of this
year and a re-strategizing for the remainder of the
13. There is still no new date set for an Interagency
Coordinating Committee (ICC) meeting, but there is an
expectation that it may happen in the coming week.
14. The Core Technical Group continues to meet a
minimum of once weekly, except during the
implementation of NIDs, at which time the participants
are in the field monitoring.
15. Carl Hassleblad, a CDC-funded immunization expert
working with WHO, is scheduled to arrive in Nigeria on
31 March and will be based in Kano State. Mr.
Hassleblad is a former BASICS consultant who worked in
Kano State during his two-year tenure here in 2001 and
2002. Mr. Hassleblad's assignment is scheduled to last
through December 2004.
16. The second round of NIDs began on 22 March and
ends on 25 March, with all states except Kano
participating fully. Assessments of the round
nationwide will begin on Monday 29 March with all
partners participating. Planning will begin at once
for subsequent rounds of State National Immunization
Days (sNIDs), mop-ups and ongoing social mobilization
and training activities.
17. The USG-supported community ownership process in
Kano State, Participatory Learning and Action Committee
for Ownership (PLACO), is on track for all phases,
including routine immunization - except OPV. Project
head will visit Kano on Wednesday, 31 March to
ascertain the status of thinking among government
officials in the state. He will then report his
findings to the USAID Mission on Friday, 2 April 2004.


18. Mission will conduct information gathering
activities over the coming week following the
implementation exercise, and continue to work with our
donor partners toward the goal of interruption of wild
poliovirus transmission by end of 2004.

19. Mission reiterates our emphasis on the necessity
of strengthening the routine immunization system in
this country, and particularly in Kano State, to ensure
sustained polio eradication and protection against the
other killer childhood diseases. The effort will
require significant funding and ongoing, intensive
collaboration between USAID, WHO, UNICEF and the GON.

20. Post will continue to provide regular reports on
progress in the effort to eradicate polio in Nigeria.


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