Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised the effort and commitment of African countries towards eradication of polio in the continent.
It said it might declare the continent polio free by the end of 2019 or early 2020, if no new case of polio is confirmed, and surveillance is quickly strengthened across the continent.
The information was contained in a World Polio Day message released, in Abuja, on Tuesday, by WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
Moeti confessed that since the launch of Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) nearly 30 years ago, new cases of polio have significantly dropped by over 99.9 percent, 350,000 cases annually in 125 countries, to 22 cases in 2017 in two affected countries.
He agreed that Africa has made tremendous progress as regards polio eradication. “As at 2012, Africa accounted for more than half of the global polio burden, but it dropped steadily from 128 cases in 2012 to four in 2016. It also dropped to zero in 2017 and 2018.
“It has been more than two years since the last case of wild poliovirus. Africa can only be certified polio free if after three years, no case is confirmed and surveillance maintained at the level required for certification.
“We are close to ending polio. It beholds on all countries to work together to ensure that it becomes a reality, and that Africa is declared polio free by end of 2019 or early 2020.
Meanwhile, the world organization, thus, registered its discontent with the emergence of Circulating Vaccine-Derived Polio Viruses (cVDPVs) in some countries, attributing it to weak routine immunization services delivery.
It suggested increased investment in immunization services which are key to ending emergence of CVDPVs, sustaining previous gains and post certification of polio eradication.