The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Sunday said the inability of health officials to access remote areas held by Boko Haram insurgents is the reason for the resurgence of polio in the state.
Mr. Shettima said the two areas in the state where the recent outbreak occurred could not be accessed from December 2013 to early 2016.
The recent detection of polio in Borno means Nigeria’s hopes of having no polio cases in three consecutive years has been dashed.
The governor spoke on Sunday in Mainok Village, Kaga local government area where he launched a million dollars food and farming aide donated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The food and farming programme targets some 40,000 victims of the Boko Haram insurgency who are being resettled to their communities.
“Back in November, 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation even awarded Borno State for being the most committed to fighting polio in the northeast despite our insurgency,” Mr. Shettima said. “The basis of the recent outbreak of polio is largely due to the unimaginable condition we found ourselves.”
“From December 2013 to the end of 2015, we had hundreds of communities in 20 local government areas seized by Boko Haram. Many roads were practically under their command; citizens including young children wondered for months around the deserts and forests, scampering for safety in the wake of attacks by Boko Haram on their communities.
“Thousands of citizens were trapped in communities around the Sambisa, around the shores of the Lake Chad and around territories being administered by Boko Haram. Thousands, including pregnant women and children, were held captive by Boko Haram while hundreds of children were even born in captivity.
“Everyone can bear testimony that it was impossible for the Government to have sustained its wide reach in polio immunization under such an atmosphere of war. Now under the current administration, most communities have been freed and this made it possible to diagnose the health of children held captive and those hitherto trapped.”
The Borno governor, however, gave hints that the disease would soon be eradicated.
“Our communities are mostly free and this makes room for a critical round of aggressive polio eradication campaign in Borno,” he said. “Unlike before, we don’t envisage the killing of health workers administering polio and other preventive vaccines in most of our communities which they couldn’t access since 2014.”