Africa has been declared free from wild poliovirus. The milestone comes four years after Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – recorded its final case of wild poliovirus.
“Rotary International and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are proud to announce a historic public health achievement as the World Health Organization’s African region is now certified wild poliovirus-free,” said Rotary International President Holger Knaack.
Over the course of the effort, nine billion dosages of oral polio vaccine were administered by the independent body and, hundreds of millions of children were immunised.
Hence, 1.8 million cases of wild poliovirus were averted throughout the region.
“In the face of a pandemic, the world has had very little good news to celebrate in global health this year and the challenges ahead are formidable,” said Knaack.
The road to the African region’s wild poliovirus-free certification has been paved by the dedication of health workers — mainly women, who reached children with the polio vaccine; those who found solutions for reaching children in regions rife with conflict and insecurity; those leading surveillance activities to test cases of paralysis and check sewage for the virus, and the leadership of all 47 countries in the African region.
“We have been painstakingly working toward this day since 1996 when Rotary and its GPEI partners first joined with Nelson Mandela to mobilize leaders across the continent to commit to reaching every child with the polio vaccine,” said Dr Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee.
Funsho added: “We still have important work to do, but this achievement shows that with collaboration, and political and financial support, the global eradication of polio is possible.”
Deepak Kapur, Chairman, Rotary International’s India National PolioPlus Committee, added: “With this announcement, five out of the six World Health Organization (WHO) regions are now wild polio-free, serving as much-needed encouragement for the hundreds of thousands of frontline health workers who have been fighting tirelessly to keep children worldwide safe and immunized against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”