January 24, 2015 marked six months with no new cases of wild polio reported in Nigeria, the only remaining endemic country in Africa. While this milestone marks a major achievement for global polio eradication efforts, we must remain cautiously optimistic.
Nigeria’s total polio case count for 2014 remains 6, compared to 53 in 2013. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on July 24, 2014 in the southern Kano state. Polio case numbers in Africa decreased by 92 percent between 2013 and 2014. In 2013, outbreaks in central Africa, the Horn of Africa and Nigeria, left the entire continent at risk of polio
“Now we must be more vigilant than ever, as our progress is fragile,” says Dr. Tunji Funsho, Rotary’s PolioPlus chair for Nigeria. One of Nigeria’s greatest challenges in the eradication efforts was reaching children in hard to access areas and low levels of campaign engagement. The Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunization, the country’s technical advisory body, met this month in order to review current progress and to discuss what next steps will ensure a polio-free Nigeria.
Nigeria’s progress is at risk unless polio is ended in the other two countries where it also remains endemic: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Until polio is stopped in the remaining endemic areas, all countries need to maintain sensitive surveillance and high immunization rates to rapidly detect any importation of the poliovirus and minimize its impact. Now that 99 percent of the world’s population lives in regions certified polio-free, the goal of eradication is closer than ever.
Read more about polio eradication efforts in Nigeria at www.polioeradication.org.