Africa celebrating one-year anniversary of being certified wild polio-free

The historic milestone follows closely coordinated efforts by global partners to rid Africa of the virus.

On Wednesday, the WHO African Region celebrated a one-year anniversary of the continent being certified wild polio-free. This comes after the Africa Regional Certification Commission certified the region as being free of the virus on 25 August last year, after four years without observing a single case. Until now, two of three wild polio virus strains had been eradicated across globally. The latest milestone means the continent has now been declared free of the last remaining strain of wild poliovirus. Nigeria, which accounted for more than half of all global cases less than ten years ago was the last country on the continent to be declared wild polio-free. To date, there is no cure for the virus which usually affects children aged under five, sometimes causing irreversible paralysis.

When the World Health Assembly launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) back in 1988 with the goal of eradicating polio by the 2000, the disease was endemic in 125 countries and was paralyzing 350,000 children every year. Since then, about 400 million children have been vaccinated each year and global polio cases have dropped by 99%. The campaign to rid Africa of polio also inspired the late Nelson Mandela to join forces with Rotary, the GPEI and other African countries to launch the Kick Polio Out of Africa initiative back in 1996. Since the launch of the campaign, nine billion doses of the oral polio vaccine have been distributed across the continent, reversing the damaging effects of the virus that paralyzed thousands of African children 25 years ago.