In a historic public health achievement, health authorities on Tuesday, August 25, declared the African continent free of the wild poliovirus after decades of efforts.
The announcement was made by the African Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication during a World Health Organization (WHO) event, four years after the continent's last case was reported in northern Nigeria and 24 years after it launched the eradication campaign.
According to the commission, 47 countries in the WHO's Africa region have eradicated the disease that usually affects children under five and sometimes leads to irreversible paralysis or death.
However, there are still looming threats from vaccine-derived polio.
"This is a momentous milestone for Africa," said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization's regional director for Africa. "Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio."
This is a momentous milestone for #Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild #polio!#poliofree #africakicksoutwildpolio #RC70AFRO https://t.co/zJ3GyJnHkA pic.twitter.com/e547eh8Vw9— Dr Matshidiso Moeti (@MoetiTshidi) August 25, 2020
"We must take the lessons learned and best practices from eradicating wild poliovirus to achieve Africa's other public health goals and improve healthcare for all Africans," she added.
"Big day for my African brothers & sisters - our continent will be declared #polio-free. This is one of the greatest public health achievements, demonstrating that with science & solidarity we can beat viruses & save lives," tweeted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Big day for my African brothers & sisters - our continent will be declared #polio-free. This is one of the greatest public health achievements, demonstrating that with science & solidarity we can beat viruses & save lives. https://t.co/JhijcErtwM— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) August 25, 2020
There is no treatment and no cure but getting vaccinated can prevent infection that causes polio.
Governments and non-profit organisations have been working since 1996 to try to eradicate the virus from the African continent with sustained vaccination campaigns. Almost 9 billion polio vaccines have been delivered, Tedros added.
The declaration leaves Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan as the only countries thought to still have the wild poliovirus.