Africa Has Been Declared Wild Polio Free After Decades Of Efforts

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Africa Has Been Declared Wild Polio Free After Decades Of Efforts

Photo: UNICEF health consultant Hadiza Waya immunizes a child during a polio vaccination campaign on April 22, 2017, in Kano, Nigeria. Pius Utomu Ekpei —AFP/Getty Images


After a 32 year-long campaign, Africa has finally been declared wild polio free by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The announcement came from the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) who has helped oversee a mass vaccination campaign that has thankfully eliminated a disease that causes death and disability, particularly in children.


It comes four years after the last recorded wild polio cases were seen in northern Nigeria.


Dr. Matshidiso Moeti of WHO, said of the news:


"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'd have a reversal. This moment underlines the importance of paying attention and better prioritising the needs of people with disabilities in the African region. Health is not just the absence of a disease that can kill, it is a complete sense of wellbeing"


Among those involved in the long-run project to eliminate the disease include the WHO, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, alongside local and national government agencies.


Polio is a viral infection that attacks the nervous system, it can cause muscle weakness and the inability to move. It kills when it damages the nerves involved in an individual's ability to breath. While the disease has existed since time immemorial it did not cause significant damage on a wide-scale until the 20th century. While in the past babies would have been exposed to the polio virus and build immunity, the virus is not considered dangerous for infants, modern sanitation meant that fewer and fewer infants had immunity going into childhood. In 1977 alone there were 250,000 people in the United States who had been paralysed by polio in childhood before a vaccine had become widely available. Many of these people were required to live inside iron-lungs.


A vaccine for polio was created in 1950, and since its widespread adoption, cases of polio worldwide have plummeted. It is now believed that only Pakistan and Afghanistan have cases of wild polio, numbering a handful of infections per year. There are however, 20 million polio survivors globally, many living with permanent disability.


One of those affected by polio disability is Musbahu Lawan Didi, co-founder of Nigeria's Association of Polio Survivors. They said on hearing the news:


"It is incredible that what we have started years ago has built these results. As polio survivors we are the happiest and believe we'll be the last polio survivors in the country. Ninety percent of polio survivors in Nigeria live in poverty. Many of us are trawling the streets to survive, begging. It should not be so."

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Thinking Humanity: Africa Has Been Declared Wild Polio Free After Decades Of Efforts
Africa Has Been Declared Wild Polio Free After Decades Of Efforts
After a long battle Africa has finally been declared polio free. The announcement came from the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) who has helped oversee a mass vaccination campaign that has thankfully eliminated a disease that causes death and disability, particularly in children. It comes four years after the last recorded wild polio cases were seen in northern Nigeria.
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