Africa declared free of wild polio

Stopping wild polio in Africa has brought benefits far beyond saving children from paralysis, says WHO Africa

Africa declared free of wild polio

After four years without a single case of wild polio, the African region has been certified free of wild poliovirus.

The announcement was made at a virtual session Tuesday of the 70th WHO Regional Committee for Africa.

At the session, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus along with African health ministers and stakeholders addressed Africa's health issues.

"Today is a day of celebration and a day of hope. Today we come together to rejoice over a historic public health success – the certification of wild poliovirus eradication in the African region," Tedros said.

"Since 1996, almost 9 billion polio vaccines have been delivered in Africa, up to 1.8 million cases of wild polio have been averted, and up to 180,000 lives have been saved," Tedros added.

He said the coronavirus pandemic is once again demonstrating that polio staff is an essential public health workforce that can be quickly mobilized to serve the most vulnerable communities.

Continue vaccinations

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president, urged African countries to continue to vaccinate children because vaccines save lives. ''We must continue to invest in health systems because healthy populations create wealthy nations."

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said: "With this achievement, we’ve shown that people can come together from across the African continent to defeat this deadly disease. As we fight COVID-19, we’ve seen the same spirit coming together to fight this epidemic."

Aliko Dangote, Africa's wealthiest person, and a philanthropist, called ending wild polio in Africa a giant leap forward. ''We need to apply the same mindset on public health across Africa, beginning with us here today."

Stopping wild polio in Africa has brought benefits far beyond saving children from paralysis. Africa’s health systems and public health programs are much stronger thanks to investments made in immunization, disease surveillance, and outbreak response, according to the WHO Africa.