By Rogers Wanambwa
KIU, Main Campus – Four years after the last recorded cases of wild polio in northern Nigeria, the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) on Tuesday certified that the continent is now free of the virus, which can cause irreversible paralysis and in some cases death.
A statement from the WHO stated that “Thanks to the relentless efforts by governments, donors, frontline health workers and communities, up to 1.8 million children have been saved from the crippling life-long paralysis.”
“Happiness is an understatement. We've been on this marathon for over 30 years,” stated Tunji Funsho, a Nigerian doctor and local anti-polio coordinator for Rotary International.
The Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that the achievement is the result of a campaign to vaccinate and monitor children in Borno State, the final front of polio eradication efforts on the continent.
“It’s been a momentous, massive undertaking, with amazing persistence and perseverance, coming in the face of moments when we thought we were just about there, then we would have a reversal,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa, said.
According to the guardian, Efforts to eradicate wild polio globally were spurred by the formation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Since then, cases of wild polio have fallen dramatically from an estimated 350,000 cases to 33 reported cases in 2018. In Africa, a campaign by leaders from the continent, led by Nelson Mandela, helped drive progress.
In Uganda for example, the disease was last recorded in 2010, with a vigorous national campaign by the government to eradicate the disease being a major driver for this achievement.
According to data provided by the World Health Organization in May 2019, Uganda had 8 polio cases in 2009, with 4 cases recorded in 2010. Since then, the country has not recorded any case of the virus.
Picture credit: Vaccine Information