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Africa Kicks Out Wild Polio!

by Public Health Update

Africa eradicates wild poliovirus

25 August 2020: Brazzaville – The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared on Tuesday that the World Health Organization (WHO) African Region is free of wild poliovirus.

This marks the eradication of the second virus from the face of the continent since smallpox 40 years ago.

The ARCC’s decision comes after an exhaustive, decades-long process of documentation and analysis of polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity of the region’s 47 member states, which included conducting field verification visits to each country.

In 1996, African Heads of State committed to eradicate polio during the Thirty-Second Ordinary Session of the Organization of African Unity in Yaoundé, Cameroon. At the time, polio was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children, annually, on the African continent.

In the same year, Nelson Mandela with the support of Rotary International jumpstarted Africa’s commitment to polio eradication with the launch of the Kick Polio Out of Africa campaign. Mandela’s call mobilized African nations and leaders across the continent to step up their efforts to reach every child with polio vaccine.

The last case of wild poliovirus in the region was detected in 2016 in Nigeria. Since 1996, polio eradication efforts have prevented up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis and saved approximately 180,000 lives.

While the eradication of wild poliovirus from the WHO African Region is a major achievement, 16 countries in the region are currently experiencing cVDPV2 outbreaks, which can occur in under-immunized communities.

The 16 countries in Africa currently affected by circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses outbreaks include: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia.

PILLARS OF POLIO ERADICATION

  • Immunization
  • Disease Surveillance
  • Outbreak Response

Seven Ways Polio Eradication Benefited Africa

  1. Demonstrating the importance of data for disease eradication
  2. Reaching every child with vaccines
  3. Strengthening disease surveillance and laboratory networks
  4. Building Africa’s health workforce  
  5. Reaching communities through social mobilisation, communication
  6. Improving outbreak response capacity 
  7. Implementing accountability frameworks

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