Nigeria polio endemic downgraded
A 25-year concerted international effort has now stopped polio nearly everywhere in the world
World Health Organization removes Nigeria from polio endemic list; WHO says only two countries remain endemic to the paralyzing disease
NEW YORK (WHO) — The World Health Organization announced that polio is no longer endemic in Nigeria, the first time the nation has interrupted transmission of wild poliovirus, bringing the country and the African region closer than ever to being certified polio-free.
A disease or condition that is regularly found among particular people or in a certain area is known as “endemic.”
As recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide. Since then, a concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers have resulted in Nigeria successfully stopping polio.
More than 200,000 volunteers across the country repeatedly immunized more than 45 million children under the age of five years, to ensure that no child would suffer from this paralyzing disease. Innovative approaches, such as increased community involvement and the establishment of Emergency Operations Centres at the national and state level, have also been pivotal to Nigeria’s success.
“We Nigerians are proud today. With local innovation and national persistence, we have beaten polio. We know our vigilance and efforts must continue in order to keep Nigeria polio-free,” said Dr. Ado Muhammad, executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Nigeria.
The interruption of wild poliovirus transmission in Nigeria would have been impossible without the support and commitment of donors and development partners. Their continued support, along with continued domestic funding from Nigeria, will be essential to keep Nigeria and the entire region polio-free.
As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere
Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, has now been stopped nearly everywhere in the world following a 25-year concerted international effort. Polio remains endemic in only 2 countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan. The eradication of polio globally now depends primarily on stopping the disease in these countries. As long as polio exists anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere.
Nigeria has made remarkable progress against polio, but continued vigilance is needed to protect these gains and ensure that polio does not return. Immunization and surveillance activities must continue to rapidly detect a potential re-introduction or re-emergence of the virus. After 3 years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the continent, official ‘certification’ of polio eradication will be conducted at the regional level in Africa.
Stopping polio an epic human achievement
Eradicating polio will be one of the greatest achievements in human history, and have a positive impact on global health for generations to come. Nigeria has brought the world one major step closer to achieving this goal and it’s critical that we seize this opportunity to end polio for good and ensure future generations of children are free from this devastating disease.
“Stopping polio in Nigeria has been a clear example that political engagement, strong partnerships, and community engagement are the engines that drive the momentum of public health programs, enabling them to achieve great things,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “I would like to congratulate everyone, particularly political, religious and community leaders in Nigeria and across Africa, for reaching a year without cases of wild polio.”
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since 1988, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent. At the time, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed every year, in more than 125 endemic countries.
Today, two countries remain which have never stopped endemic transmission of polio: Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2015, 41 cases of wild poliovirus have been reported worldwide — 32 in Pakistan, and nine cases in Afghanistan.