By Linda Ike
The World Health Organisation WHO has asked African Countries to remain vigilant against resurgence of polio in the region.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti stated this in a message to mark the 2022 World Polio Day which is celebrated annually on October 24.
The theme for World Polio Day 2022 and Beyond is “”A healthier future for mothers and children”.
Moeti noted that as many as 20 million children have been spared disability and are walking today, explaining that Two of the three strains of wild poliovirus (Type 2 and Type 3) have been certified as eradicated, and in 2020 the African Region was certified as free of indigenous wild polio.
She disclosed that Since the landmark resolution for the Worldwide eradication of polio was adopted in 1988 at the 41st World Health Assembly, global efforts have achieved a more than 99.9% decrease in polio cases.
According to her, the progress has safeguarded millions of children and their families from the crippling virus.
She however warned that detections of new outbreaks, including in areas where polio was believed to have been eradicated, is a stark reminder that if Africa does not deliver on the promise to eradicate all forms of polio, everywhere, no child is safe anywhere.
“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) 2022-2026 Strategy to end polio lays out the pathway to finish this last mile.
“The significant global commitment to fund the strategy, at the 2022 World Health Summit polio pledging event earlier this month, was extremely encouraging
“In a show of global solidarity, the host country Germany, along with 15 other countries, as well as charities, international organisations, and numerous private sector initiatives, committed more than US$ 2.6 billion to the strategy – more than half the total target.
“With this renewed financial commitment, we now have a critical opportunity to ramp up eradication efforts.
“For the African Region, this means improved surveillance and high-quality immunisation campaigns targeting zero-dose children for vaccination against all polio strains” she said.
Moeti further noted that at the end of the first quarter of 2022, WHO announced the successful closure of 32 outbreaks in 10 countries, stating that despite the closure, there are ongoing outbreaks that demand people to stay vigilant and finish the job.
“This is critical for Africa to stamp out new cases of wild polio, as well as to safeguard our wild polio-free certification status.
“According to the most updated statistics for the continent, more than 250 cases of paralysis from polio have been recorded this year. That is 250 too many”, Dr. Moeti noted.
She said that to halt outbreaks of the circulating polio variant, 500 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, 95% of these in Africa.
Moeti stated that, “Following two immunisation rounds, no further transmission has been seen.
The polio response has also prompted innovative digital technologies to identify, track and best deliver vaccines, especially to those in hard-to-reach areas.
“Our endeavours to deliver a polio-free world are also helping strengthen the greater public health system, boosting the overall response to other health threats and emergencies.
“The polio structure has been instrumental in supporting surveillance and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout globally, also increasing the efficiency of the Region’s emergency responses to diseases including measles and cholera.
She advocated advancement of the polio transition plans in tandem with eradication efforts, in order to best leverage the limited public health resources.
She commended all the dedicated health workers who are delivering on the polio promise by going door to door to administer vaccines in often challenging circumstances to safeguard every eligible child and also ensuring that polio is eradicated once and for all.