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WHO declares Africa free of polio after not registering cases in the last four years

With this milestone, five of the six WHO regions are now free from natural poliovirus, bringing global eradication closer to achieving

The African Regional Certification Commission has certified the absence of polio due to natural viruses (also called ‘wild’) in the African Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) after four years without any cases. With this historic milestone, five of the six WHO regions (where more than 90% of the world’s population lives) are now free of naturally-occurring polioviruses, bringing the world closer to achieving global polio eradication.

Currently, only two countries around the world continue to have natural poliovirus Transmission: Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Ending naturally occurring polioviruses in Africa is one of the greatest public health achievements of our era, and we are greatly encouraged to finish the work of eradicating polio globally. I thank and congratulate governments, health workers, community volunteers, traditional leaders, religious leaders, and parents from across the region who have worked together to eliminate natural polio from Africa, “said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

According to WHO, “strong leadership and innovation” were “decisive” in stopping natural polio in the region. “The countries successfully coordinated their efforts to overcome the main problems posed by the immunization of children, such as high levels of population movement and conflicts and insecurity that restrict access to health services, as well as capacity of viruses to spread rapidly and cross borders, “said WHO.

On the other hand, they highlight that “the continued generosity and common commitment of donors, in particular governments, the private sector, multilateral institutions, and philanthropic organizations, to achieve a polio-free world helped build the infrastructure that made possible that in the African Region more children than ever be vaccinated against polio and that natural polio is defeated. “

“In a difficult year for global health, the certification of freedom from natural polioviruses in the African Region is a sign of hope and progress that shows what can be achieved through collaboration and perseverance. Since 1996, when Nelson MandelaJoined by the Rotary Association, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and the governments of the African Region we have accomplished something remarkable. Today’s milestone teaches us that polio eradication is possible, as long as the world remains committed to achieving this goal. Let us work together to harness our collective energies to overcome the remaining challenges and fulfill our promise of a polio-free world, “said Rotary International Association President Holger Knaack.

The WHO has pointed out that although this “is a remarkable milestone, we must not become complacent. ” “Continued commitment to strengthening health and immunization systems in the African Region is essential to protect progress against natural polio and to address the spread of circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV2), which are present in 16 countries in the Region. Low immunity foci mean that these strains continue to pose a threat, and the risk is magnified by interruptions in vaccination due to COVID-19, which have made communities more vulnerable to outbreaks of cVDPV2 “, have warned.

Thus, the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative calls on countries and donors to “maintain a vigilant attitude against all forms of polio”. “Until all strains are eradicated worldwide, the incredible progress made against polio worldwide will be at risk,” they warned.

“The success of the WHO African Region in the fight against polio caused by natural viruses has shown the world that progress can be made in the fight against some of the world’s greatest health problems. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative gives the thank you to all the people, partners, donors, and countries that helped to achieve this incredible achievement “, they have concluded.

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