With just 11 confirmed polio cases so far in 2017, the world is on the brink of eradicating polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralysed hundreds of thousands of children each year.
Currently the Wild Polio Virus, WPV, is circulating in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. A country is regarded as polio free or non-endemic if no cases have been detected for a year. However, it is still possible polio circulates under these circumstances, as was the case for Nigeria, where a particular strain of the Wild Polio Virus resurfaced after five years in August 2016.
In September 2015, the World Health organisation removed Nigeria from the list of polio endemic countries, however, polio made a return to the country in and efforts have since been on to get the eradication campaign back on track.
But for that setback, the nation would have been certified by the World Health Organisation, WHO, as a polio-free country in 2017.
According to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency NPHCDA, there has been no recent history of polio in Nigeria since August 2016.
Nigeria has been pursuing eradication of polio for more than two decades. To be certified polio-free, the nation needs to maintain zero case status, strengthen surveillance system, improve routine immunisation and maintain high quality campaigns. The road to eradication of polio is hinged more on improved vaccine coverage and supplementary immunisation.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eradication of polio in Nigeria will be the Foundation's greatest achievement.
As the world marks another Polio Day, yet another ideal opportunity to celebrate the successes, raise public awareness, and talk about what is needed to end polio for good is at hand. But only through sustained funding and political commitment will to eradication occur as the disease could return to countries that are now polio-free and put children everywhere at risk.
Towards ending polio, Rotary is giving $49.5 million in grants to support immunisation and surveillance activities led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Nigeria will obtain $7.71 million of the grant, meant to support efforts to end polio in the remaining countries where polio remains endemic. Afghanistan will obtain $9.32 million while Pakistan gets $8.94 million.
Further funding will support efforts to keep six vulnerable countries polio-free: Chad ($2.37 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($4.5 million), Guinea ($961,000), Somalia ($1.62 million), South Sudan ($3.77 million), and Sudan ($2.56 million). An additional $7.74 million will go toward surveillance activities in Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.
"Rotary and its partners are closer than ever to eradicating polio," says Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee, which leads the organization's polio eradication efforts.
"World Polio Day is the ideal opportunity to celebrate our successes, raise public awareness, and talk about what is needed to end this paralyzing disease for good. To protect all children from polio, world governments and donors must see through their commitments to fund critical work and support rigorous disease surveillance in both endemic and at-risk polio-free countries."
Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over the next three years,to be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance.
"To protect all children from polio, world governments and donors must see through their commitments to fund critical work and support rigorous disease surveillance in both endemic and at-risk polio-free countries," says McGovern. Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over the next three years, which will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance.
Rotary started its polio eradication program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation later became a partner, too. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 37 cases in 2016. Rotary has contributed a total of more than $1.7 billion -- including matching funds from the Gates Foundation -- and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio.