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, according to an official statement obtained by APA in Kigali.The statement issued by the UN agency said that this marks the eradication of the second virus from the face of the continent since smallpox 40 years ago.
The move comes after African Heads of State have committed to eradicate polio during the Thirty-Second Ordinary Session of the Organization of African Unity which took plave in Yaoundé, Cameroon in 1996.
At the time, polio was paralyzing an estimated 75,000 children, annually, on the African continent, it said.
Estimates show that 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.
Commenting on the new achievement, Professor Rose Gana Fomban Leke, chairperson of he Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) noted that the [Africa] 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.
“Today is a historic day for Africa,” he said.
While the eradication of wild poliovirus from the WHO African Region is a major achievement, estimates by the UN agency indicate that 16 countries in the region are currently experiencing cVDPV2 outbreaks, which can occur in under-immunized communities.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa said: ““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,” she said.
“Africa has demonstrated that despite weak health systems, significant logistical and operational challenges across the continent, African countries have collaborated very effectively in eradicating wild poliovirus,” said Dr Pascal Mkanda, Coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Programme in the African Region.
Thanks to the dedication of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, official reports indicate that polio cases have reduced by 99.9% since 1988, bringing the world closer than ever before to ending polio.
The initiative is a public-private global partnership comprising national governments; WHO; Rotary International; the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; UNICEF; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and a broad range of long-term supporters, it said.