GENEVA (Switzerland): World Health Organization has declared Africa free of polio, a landmark in a decades-long campaign to eradicate the notorious disease around the world. The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the 47 countries in the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region are free of the virus, with no cases reported for four years.
“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“Today is a day of celebration, and a day of hope.
Today we come together to rejoice over an historic public health success – the certification of wild poliovirus eradication in the African Region.”-@DrTedros #AFRORC70#EndPolio #AfricaKicksOutWildPolio pic.twitter.com/RjUAKm98zq
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 25, 2020
The last case of wild polio in Africa was reported in Nigeria four years ago. According to WHO, about 95 per cent of Africa’s population has now been immunised, which was one of the conditions set by the Africa Regional Certification Commission before declaring the continent free from wild polio.
A commission led by Prof. Rose Gana Fomban Leke has certified that no cases had occurred on the continent for the past four years, the threshold for the eradication of poliovirus. The WHO said, poliovirus now joins smallpox in the list of viruses that have been wiped out in Africa.
The journey to eradication began with a promise made in 1996 by Heads of State during the 32nd session of the Organization of African Unity held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where they pledged to stamp out polio, which was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children annually on the continent.
That same year, the late Nelson Mandela jumpstarted Africa’s commitment to polio eradication by launching the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign, supported by Rotary International, which mobilized nations to step up efforts to ensure every child received the polio vaccine.
Since then, polio eradication efforts have spared up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis and saved approximately 180,000 lives, WHO reported.
Polio is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, which may lead to paralysis or muscle weakening in a limb. The virus is transmitted through contaminated water or food, or contact with an infected person. The virus can lead to paralysis if it attacks the nervous system.
Most people infected with the poliovirus don’t become sick and have no symptoms. The fatal cases, however, do develop paralysis.
There is no cure for Polio but now the polio vaccine can protect children and immunise them against the disease.
Children below the age of five years are most vulnerable to polio disease, which sometimes leads to irreversible paralysis and death in rare cases when breathing muscles are impacted.