Officials in northern Nigeria's most populuous state have said they are worried by a sharp rise in the number of cases of the paralysing disease poliomyelitis.
"In the last six months we have recorded 90 polio cases which is a radical shift from the same period in 2007 when we had zero cases," Kano health commissioner Aisha Isyaku Kiru told a gathering of health officials and donor agencies late Friday.
AdvertisementShe linked the increase to a decline in polio immunisation as parents have become increasingly reluctant to take their children for routine immunisation.
"Events in the past few months in the journey towards polio eradication have been disheartening," Kano state governor Ibrahim Shekarau told the same gathering.
Kano has been the epicentre of the transmission of the crippling polio virus to other parts of the world since 2003 when the authorities suspended polio immunization for 13 months.
The suspension followed claims by radical muslim clerics and some medical doctors that the vaccine was laced with substances that could render girls infertile as part of a US-led western plot to depopulate Africa.
Although the state resumed its polio vaccination campaign after clinical trials in and outside Nigeria proved the vaccine safe, Kano had already infected other countries in the region that had been considered polio-free.
Even after the vaccination campaign resumed, health officials noted a falling off in interest on the part of parents.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently listed Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the only polio-endemic countries in the world.
Seven states in the north: Kano, Katsina, Yobe, Jigawa, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi, have been declared as polio-endemic states by Nigerian health authorities.
The pronouncement by the WHO "was embarrassing enough to provoke immediate response to the challenge by any serious nation", Nigeria's acting health minister Hassan Lawan told the gathering.
"We shall this time meet the March 2009 target for the interruption of the transmission of wild polio virus in Nigeria," Lawan said.
"Once you capture Kano, you capture the north and the fight against polio in Nigeria is won," Lawan said.
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