Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

WHO congratulates Nigeria as Africa eradicates wild poliovirus

*African countries have collaborated very effectively in eradicating wild poliovirus, say top officials

*Urge all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

As Africa yet struggles to contain further spread of the distressing Coronavirus pandemic, the continent has eradicated another disease, according to the World Organisation (WHO).

The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have congratulated Nigeria on being declared free of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV).

ConsumerConnect reports that the Independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication has declared World Health Organisation African Region, free of wild poliovirus.

WHO Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville, Congo, revealed this in a statement via its Web site.

While the UN agencies congratulated Nigeria on the status, they equally stressed that achieving the milestone is not the end of the job in that all children under five years must continue to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.

According to the statement, this marks the eradication of the second virus from the face of the continent since smallpox 40 years ago.

It quoted Prof. Rose Fomban Leke, ARCC Chairperson, as saying “Today is a historic day for Africa.

“ARCC is pleased to announce that the Region has successfully met the certification criteria for wild polio eradication, with no cases of the wild poliovirus reported in the Region for four years.

Report says that the ARCC’s decision must have come after an exhaustive, decades-long process of documentation and analysis of polio surveillance, immunisation 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 Organisation of African Unity in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

At the time, polio was paralysing an estimated 75,000 children on the African continent annually.

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 mobilised 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.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, also remarked that “this is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio.

“This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists.

“I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives, for this noble cause.

“However, we must stay vigilant and keep up vaccination rates to avert a resurgence of the wild poliovirus and address the continued threat of the vaccine-derived polio,” said Moeti.

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-immunised communities.

The statement also quoted Dr. Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the African Region, as saying: “Africa has demonstrated that in spite of weak health systems, significant logistical and operational challenges across the continent, African countries have collaborated very effectively in eradicating wild poliovirus

“With the innovations and expertise that the polio programme has established, I am confident that we can sustain the gains, post-certification, and eliminate cVDPV2.”

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