Polio eradication



Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that it invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus is transmitted from person-to-person through ingestion of infected fecal matter. Following infection, the virus is shed intermittently in excrement for several weeks with little or no symptoms in majority of cases. The initial symptoms of poliomyelitis include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, neck stiffness and pain in the limbs.

In 1988, when WHO and partners established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aiming to eradicate polio, the disease was paralysing over 1000 children per day and was active in all countries of the Region. The African Region has not had wild polio cases in over a year. 

Factors that have contributed to the progress in polio eradication in the Region inlcude:

  • Commitment of political leaders
  • Implementation of intensive surveillance activities in all countries of the Region
  • Polio laboratory network made up of 16 laboratories providing critical information, including genetic sequencing data
  • Innovative approaches in social mobilization and communication to overcome misconceptions and rumours
  • Cross-border collaboration and the implementation of synchronized immunization campaigns across large numbers of countries simultaneously
  • Use of improved vaccines and new technologies to improve vaccination coverage.

Statement by the WHO Regional Director for Africa on World Polio Day 2015: A tribute to polio successes in Africa
Brazzaville, 24 October 2015 – Today, we celebrate a very special World Polio Day and a historic moment in the WHO African Region, one without a case of wild polio virus in over a year. The day comes just days before the official ceremony with the President of Nigeria to take the country off the polio endemic list.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan (2nd from left), the WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (3rd from right), the Executive Director of Nigeria Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Ado Mohammed (centre) with Nigerian Government delegation, and the WHO Polio Eradication Programme Coordinator for African Region, Dr. Pascal Mkanda (far right) at the announcement of Nigeria removal from polio endemic list of countries New York, 25 September 2015 - The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan announced the removal of Nigeria, the then only remaining endemic country in the African Region, from the list of polio endemic countries at the Polio Oversight Board Meeting in New York, USA. This was a historic occasion for polio eradication in Nigeria, Africa and globally.

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