While the African continent is battling the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been some good news from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Reports suggest that WHO is set to certify that the African continent is free from wild polio, four years after the last cases appeared in North-Eastern Nigeria.
“Thanks to the relentless efforts by governments, donors, frontline health workers and communities, up to 1.8 million children have been saved from the crippling life-long paralysis,” WHO said in a statement.
The African continent has battled the disease that has left many paralysed for many years.
“Happiness is an understatement. We’ve been on this marathon for over 30 years,” said Tunji Funsho, a Nigerian doctor and local anti-polio coordinator for Rotary International.
He said it marked a crucial step in the total eradication of the illness at the global level.
“It’s a real achievement, I feel joy and relief at the same time,” he added.
Poliomyelitis, or “wild polio” is an acutely infectious and contagious disease which attacks the spinal cord and causes irreversible paralysis in children.
It was endemic around the world until a vaccine was found in the 1950s, though this remained out of reach for many poorer countries in Asia and Africa. As late as 1988, the WHO counted 350,000 cases globally, and in 1996 said there were more than 70,000 cases in Africa alone.
The huge problem Africa faced in the fight against the disease was myths and misconceptions. Many Africans were advised against taking the vaccine as rumours spread wide that the vaccine would affect their reproductive systems. Some Africans believed the vaccine was used to regulate the population of the country.
Different African countries faced different challenges while disseminating the polio vaccine. However, after years of battle, the continent is finally polio free.
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