Africa Marks One-Year Polio Free
By admin August 11, 2015



Today, August 11, 2015, marks a tremendous accomplishment for Africa and the development community as the continent celebrates achieving one year without any new cases of wild poliovirus for the first time in history. Just 20 years ago, every country on the continent was affected by the disease, but due to global immunization efforts supported by UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, local and national governments, and many other NGOs, INGOs, and volunteers the virus could be gone leaving just two countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan, still combatting the disease.

Somalia and Nigeria were the final two countries to eradicate the disease with the last case reported in Puntland in northern Somalia. Nigeria is the last country in Africa to still be listed on the polio endemic list, however once all of the health data from the last year has been analyzed by WHO and other health officials the country will be removed from the list. The continent must go three years without any new infections before polio is declared as completely eradicated. During this time, if Afghanistan and Pakistan are also able to eradicate the disease, polio could become the second communicable disease to be globally eradicated just as small pox was in 2011.

Eradicating polio did not come without a lot of hard work and effort from every entity and person throughout Africa and the international community. National and local governments had to work diligently with community, religious, and indigenous leaders to change societal norms and ideologies about vaccines and western medicines. Many countries have struggled with this and continue to do so. Just recently Catholic leaders in Kenya called for their communities to reject polio immunizations until they were examined by a credible source because they believed the immunizations may contain a drug used for sterilizing the population. Along with the challenges of changing long-standing ideologies, reaching many different marginalized and remote populations took a lot of dedication and effort from all involved to ensure that 95% of all children have been reached with the vaccine.

While the efforts made have proven to be successful, it will be necessary for the same attention to be paid to continuing immunization campaigns and activities to ensure the virus will not return. Security threats in Nigeria and Somalia could also be detrimental to the progress made with many populations unreachable due to ongoing conflict. Meanwhile, all of the national governments will need to allocate 15% of the national budget to health services as the had agreed to in the 2001 Abuja Declaration. It will be possible for more progress to be made in eradicating other communicable diseases across Africa if the national and international efforts continue along their current path.

This milestone for Africa comes at a very important time within the international development community as the new Sustainable Development Goals are in the process of being developed and agreed upon. The eradication of polio off the continent of Africa is a true testament to the achievements made during the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) period from 2000 to 2015. This accomplishment has positively impacted the work towards achieving MDG 4 (reducing child mortality by two-thirds) and MDG 6c (halt and reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015) giving the international community continued hope that their efforts will continue to realize the goals set out to make the world a more sustainable and healthy place.

For more information:–WHO.html

Thanks for sharing !

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