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  • Writer's picturestephannie Adinde

Development Digest: Africa has finally kicked polio out

On the 25th of August 2020, the Africa Regional Certification Commission certified Africa as wild polio-free. The last case of the disease was recorded in 2016 in Borno state, north-east Nigeria.⠀ ⠀ Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus called the poliovirus. It attacks the nervous system and can lead to total paralysis in a matter of hours. It mainly affects children under the age of 5. There is no known cure for polio, but the disease can be treated with a simple vaccine⠀ ⠀ In 1996, Nelson Mandela with the support of Rotary International launched the - Kick Polio Out of Africa - campaign with the goal of eradicating the virus by 2000. 24 years later, Madiba’s goal has been accomplished ⠀ Today around 220 million African children are immunised against polio annually. The disease is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.Wild polio is the second virus to be eradicated from the continent. The first was smallpox which was last recorded in Somalia in 1977. ⠀ Now, cases of the rare vaccine-derived polio virus still exist. However, the WHO and its partners are working actively to prevent new outbreaks. The benefits of eradicating polio are immense. In economic terms, it will translate into lower healthcare costs. The discontinuation of costly activities such as the production and administration of the polio vaccine will yield huge economic gains.

Economic modelling also suggests that the eradication of polio would save at least US$ 40–50 billion, particularly in low-income countries.

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