In a massive boost to achieve global polio eradication, the continent of Africa was declared free from wild polio by the independent body, African Region Certification Commission. This move came in after the continent did not see a single case of the disease in four years. Also, this milestone means that over 90 per cent of the population of the world is wild polio virus-free.
This remarkable milestone was achieved by a coordinated effort between governments, the private sector, and philanthropic organizations that collaborated to build a robust infrastructure to combat the disease. Also, a strong leadership and innovation that paved the way for overcoming challenges in immunization led to the efforts being a huge success.
A major part of the efforts to eradicate this deadly disease has been through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which was created in 1988 and is led by national governments and five partners — Rotary International, WHO, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The last nation in Africa to be declared free of this virus was Nigeria. The campaign to end the disease in this region required massive efforts in reaching the remote and dangerous areas of the nation that are under threat from militant and terrorist forces. Unfortunately, many healthcare workers and volunteers were also killed in this process.
Now, only two nations in the world experience the transmission of the wild polio virus – the Asian nations of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Polio is a virus that generally spreads from person to person, normally through contaminated water.
“Ending wild polio virus in Africa is one of the greatest public health achievements of our time and provides powerful inspiration for all of us to finish the job of eradicating polio globally,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “I thank and congratulate the governments, health workers, community volunteers, traditional and religious leaders and parents across the region who have worked together to kick wild polio out of Africa.”
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