The Word Health Organisation (WHO) has found that Africa could be declared polio-free by 2019 if the current levels of improved surveillance, vaccination and public awareness are sustained, including in the Commonwealth country of Nigeria
The Word Health Organisation (WHO) has found that Africa could be declared polio-free by 2019 if the current levels of improved surveillance, vaccination and public awareness are sustained, including in the Commonwealth country of Nigeria.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on October 24, 2017 that polio could be officially eradicated from African countries in the next year if all efforts are put into prevention and treatment of the disease, but conversely could continue if it is not.
The Wild Polio Virus, WPV, is an infectious disease that causes muscle weakness and paralysis in children and is still present in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
African leaders endorsed a pact to promote immunization against polio and other debilitating diseases in January, 2017.
Over 190,000 vaccinators immunized more than 116 million children under five across west and central Africa, and with just 11 confirmed cases of polio so far this year, elimination is in sight.
Nigeria was removed from the list of polio endemic countries by WHO in September 2015 and would have been certified as a polio-free country in 2017 if no cases had been detected for a year.
However, four cases recorded in northern Nigeria signalled a recurrence of polio in August 2016, when a particular strain of the virus resurfaced after five years.
Moeti warned that while tremendous progress has been made, complacency may trigger new infections in the continent’s remotest corners where surveillance is substandard.
She stressed that vaccinating children and public education on improved hygiene methods has prevented deaths in the area and a large part of Lake Chad basin.
She also urged the region to tackle sub-optimal surveillance efforts, as poor security, unregulated border-crossing and poverty all contribute to an increased outbreak risk.
The American charity Rotary is giving $49.5 million in grants to help the Global Polio Eradication Initiative support immunisation and surveillance activities, of which Nigeria will receive $7.71 million.
Rotary has committed to raising funds of $150 million within the next three years for polio eradication activities, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to match this 2-to-1, yielding $450 million.
Michael McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, said: “Rotary and its partners are closer than ever to eradicating polio.”
“To protect all children from polio, world governments and donors must see through their commitments to fund critical work and support rigorous disease surveillance in both endemic and at-risk polio-free countries.”