Africa is on track to be declared polio-free within the next couple of months, World Health Organization’s polio initiative has said. Nigeria was the last country on the continent where polio was endemic but there have been no confirmed cases of the disease since August 2016. Experts say that a country has to be free of the disease for three (3) years before it can be officially declared to have wiped out the disease.
Wiping out the disease in Africa is a huge milestone as there were still around 20,000 cases a year of the disease at the beginning of the millennium. The conflict-riven Borno State in the north eastern part of Nigeria was the last reservoir of the disease. The presence of militant group Boko Haram meant that health workers were unable to get out and vaccinate children against the disease, which is the only way to eradicate it.
This good news is tempered by the fact that the virus is still present in Pakistan and Afghanistan – the last two countries to report cases of the wild virus. So far, there have been 27 cases of the disease in Pakistan this year, compared to 12 in the whole of 2018. And there have been 10 cases so far in Afghanistan too.