With Nigeria as the last African country to be declared free from wild polio (having accounted for more than half of all global cases less than a decade ago) the WHO has declared that transmission of the wild poliovirus has officially been stopped in all 47 countries of its African region.
The Rotary Club of Belfast are proud to have contributed since 1987 to the global efforts to eliminate the disease for good (see here) and remain committed to making the final, challenging steps towards making a polio free world a reality.
Now five of WHO’s six regions, representing more than 90% of the world’s population, are now free of the disease. Rotary International’s President Holger Knaack commends all the people who have played important roles in reaching this milestone noting it took a tremendous effort over many years. Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) (WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) proclaim this milestone an achievement in public health and shows it proves that strong commitment, co-ordination and perseverance can rid the world of polio.
14 years ago 75,000 of Africa’s children were paralysed by the disease. More than 9 billion doses of oral polio vaccine have been provided throughout the region, preventing an estimated 1.8 million cases of paralysis. This is the result of decades of effort from Rotary clubs and volunteers around the world, who have fund raised, campaigned and worked tirelessly since Rotary pledged to rid the world of polio more than 30 years ago.
It is not over - the challenge now is to eradicate wild poliovirus in the two countries where the disease has never been stopped: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rotary still has a critical role to play in keeping the African region free of wild poliovirus and eliminating the virus in the two countries where polio remains endemic.