The World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, has said that updated statistics show that more than 250 cases of paralysis from polio have been recorded on the continent in 2022.
She disclosed this in a statement to mark the World Polio Day held on Monday, October 24 under the theme ‘Beyond: A healthier future for mothers and children.’
It started with discussions in Geneva between WHO, Rotary International and polio experts, to consider future efforts to continue the decades-long collaboration against polio.
To halt the outbreak of polio, she said 500 million vaccine doses have been administered globally with 95 per cent done in Africa.
She added that WHO has made significant progress since the beginning of Action Against Polio in 1988, adding that as many as 20 million children have been spared disability and are walking.
“At the end of the first quarter of 2022, WHO announced the successful closure of 32 outbreaks in 10 countries. Yet, there are ongoing outbreaks that demand we stay vigilant and finish the job. This is critical for Africa to stamp out new cases of wild polio, as well as to safeguard our wild polio-free certification status.
“According to the most updated statistics for the continent, more than 250 cases of paralysis from polio have been recorded this year. That is 250 too many.
“To halt outbreaks of the circulating polio variant, 500 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, 95 per cent of these in Africa.
“Following two immunisation rounds, no further transmission has been seen. The polio response has also prompted innovative digital technologies to identify, track and best deliver vaccines, especially to those in hard-to-reach areas,” she said.
Moeti explained that two of the three strains of wild poliovirus (Type 2 and Type 3) have been certified as eradicated, and in 2020, the African Region was certified as free of indigenous wild polio.
“This progress is admirable and has safeguarded millions of children and their families from this crippling virus. However, detections of new outbreaks, including in areas where polio was believed to have been eradicated, is a stark reminder that if we do not deliver on our promise to eradicate all forms of polio, everywhere, no child is safe anywhere.
“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) 2022-2026 Strategy to end polio lays out the pathway to finish this last mile. The significant global commitment to fund the strategy, at the 2022 World Health Summit polio pledging event earlier this month, was extremely encouraging.
“In a show of global solidarity, the host country Germany, along with 15 other countries, as well as charities, international organisations and numerous private sector initiatives, committed more than US$ 2.6 billion to the strategy – more than half the total target,” she said.
The regional director said with the renewed financial commitment, African countries now have a critical opportunity to ramp up eradication efforts.
For the African region, Moeti said this meant an improved surveillance and high-quality immunisation campaigns targeting zero-dose children for vaccination against all polio strains.
“Our endeavours to deliver a polio-free world are also helping strengthen the greater public health system, boosting the overall response to other health threats and emergencies.
“The polio structure has been instrumental in supporting surveillance and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout globally, also increasing the efficiency of the region’s emergency responses to diseases including measles and cholera.
“Going forward, it is critical that we continue to advance our polio transition plans in tandem with eradication efforts, in order to best leverage our limited public health resources,” she said.