The wild polio virus that once killed hundreds and thousands of children every year and also led to lockdowns, is now set to come to an end. The African region has witnessed no recorded cases of polio for the past 4 years and the World Health Organization (WHO) has now approved Africa free of wild polio.
Delivering polio vaccines to every child in the African region and wiping out the wild virus is no small feat, and the human resources, skills and experience gained in the process leave behind a legacy in how to tackle diseases and reach the poorest and most marginalised communities with lifesaving services.
Nigeria is the last country in the region to defeat wild polio virus. However, as with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lesson is that it is never too late to turn a disease outbreak around. Through hard work, new innovations and ensuring that no child was missed, Nigeria and the entire African region have now defeated polio.
Many of the lessons learned from fighting polio can also be used in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when vaccines are found and rolled out in communities.
Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s regional director for Africa said, “This is a momentous milestone for Africa and now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio.” He also added “We must stay vigilant and keep up vaccination rates to avert a resurgence,” “The expertise gained from polio eradication will continue to assist the African region in tackling Covid-19 and other health problems that have plagued the continent for so many years and ultimately move the continent toward universal health coverage.”
The future ahead is not very easy. The world has faced some serious issues with these global pandemics. But somehow the world finds a way to get rid of the viruses. This time COVID-19 is at its peak and Africa will defeat COVID with their armed expertise and scientists working day and night to find a vaccination just like they dealt with the wild poliovirus over the decades.