Tuesday, 28 May, 2024
HomeWeekly RoundupIndependent body declares Africa free from wild polio

Independent body declares Africa free from wild polio

Africa has been declared free from wild polio by the independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission, reports BBC News. Twenty-five years ago thousands of children in Africa were paralysed by the virus but, the report says, the disease is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Nigeria is the last African country to be declared free from wild polio, having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago. The vaccination campaign in Nigeria involved a huge effort to reach remote and dangerous places under threat from militant violence and some health workers were killed in the process.

Two out of three strains of wild polio virus have been eradicated worldwide.

More than 95% of Africa's population has now been immunised. This was one of the conditions that the Africa Regional Certification Commission set before declaring the continent free from wild polio. Now only the vaccine-derived polio virus remains in Africa with 177 cases being identified this year. This is a rare form of the virus that mutates from the oral polio vaccine and can then spread to under-immunised communities.

BBC News reports that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified a number of these cases in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Angola. The last communities at risk of polio live in some of the most complicated places to deliver immunisation campaigns.

Misbahu Lawan Didi, president of the Nigerian Polio Survivors Association, says that the role of survivors has been crucial in persuading people to accept the campaign. From polio survivors, to traditional and religious leaders, school teachers, parents, volunteers and health workers, a huge coalition developed to defeat polio. Working together they travelled to remote communities to immunise children.

[link url="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-53887947"]Full BBC News report[/link]

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