The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) has presented a citation of honour to Professor Francis K. Nkrumah, a pediatrician consultant, for his dedicated contribution to polio eradication at the national and the regional levels.
Prof. Nkrumah, who was a member of the Africa Regional Certification Committee (ARCC) until his retirement last year and the chair of the National Polio Expert Committee in Ghana since 2001, also received citations of honour from ARCC and the WHO Ghana Office for his role in moving the country and Africa towards a WHO polio-free certification.
Dr. Fred Wurapa, chairman of the National Certification Committee (NCC) which works towards polio-free certification in the country, and Prof. Julius Mingle, chair of the National Taskforce on Containment (NTF) which assesses laboratories to ensure that there are no poliovirus infections, were also honoured for their contribution to polio eradication in Ghana.
At a brief presentation ceremony in Accra, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, Regional Director of WHO African Region; former Director of Immunization of the WHO AFRO, Dr. Nshimirimah and the chairperson of the ARCC, Prof. Rose Keke, in a video clip, praised Prof. Nkrumah for his dedication and distinctive work during his service on the regional committee.
“You exhibited dignity, dedication and distinction in your work as a member of the ARCC and although we will miss your insightful contributions, we say congratulations,” Prof. Rose Keke said.
Dr. Owen Kaluwa, WHO Representative, Ghana, also recounted the contribution of the three gentlemen towards the polio eradication initiative which began in 1996 after the country had adopted the UN Resolution during the 41st WHO assembly meeting in 1988, which emphasized polio eradication by 2015.
He said their contributions as chairpersons of the three technical advisory committees established to facilitate the polio eradication process, led to the interruption of the transmission of wild poliovirus in the country in 2003, which led to the submission of documents to WHO ARCC in 2007 for recognition of polio-free status.
“Barely one year after this achievement, there was an outbreak again in 2008. However, with commitment from government and support from partners, Ghana again interrupted the transmission and has remained polio-free by WHO criteria since November 2008,” he said.
WHO Immunization Officer, Stanley Diamenu, said with the support of partners, Ghana had successfully conducted 45 mass polio vaccination campaigns throughout the country on house-to-house strategy till 2015.
“During these 45 mass vaccination campaigns 195,000,000 doses of the oral polio vaccine had been administered to children aged 0-59 months,” Dr. Owen Kaluwa disclosed.
Prof. Nkrumah, accepting the awards, expressed his appreciation for the recognition by WHO AFRO, ARCC and WHO Ghana Office for his modest contribution to polio eradication in the region.
He said it was appropriate for him to ask for a replacement on the ARCC due to his advancing age, adding that although the African Region has done quite well in polio eradication, there is still more work to be done as countries like Nigeria have recorded cases of wild polio virus.
Prof. Mingle and Dr. Wurapa also thanked WHO Ghana for the recognition, indicating that the position exposed them to various places of the country they would not have been to, if they had not been on the committees.
“We have learnt a lot from serving on the committees and we are grateful for the honour,” they stated.