Polio-free Africa gets funding boost

January 14, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

By

Adisa Amanor Wilks

Poliomyelitis, popularly known as polio, is a highly infectious viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can lead to paralysis within hours of infection. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), since 1988, polio cases have decreased by over 99% – from an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 countries, to 359 cases in 2014.

Today, only 2 countries in the world (Afghanistan and Pakistan) still have reported cases of the disease. Pakistan recorded 29 cases in 2015 while Afghanistan reported seven.

The WHO estimates that one in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5 – 10% die.

In Africa, there have been no recorded cases since 2014. But to be certified as polio-free, WHO needs another two clear years of zero cases.

To sustain these efforts and progress, more funding is needed – Experts estimate around $1.5 billion. Many believe that without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.

That’s why Rotary’s announcement of $35 million to shore up efforts is welcome news. Africa will receive $15 million to support its own efforts in eradicating the virus in five countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Nigeria was the last polio-endemic country in Africa and was removed from the World Health Organization’s list in September, following one year without newly reported cases. The last wild polio case in Africa was in August 2014.

“We are closer than ever to achieving a polio-free world,” said Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “To ensure that no child ever again suffers the devastating effects of this disease, we must all ensure that the necessary funds and political will are firmly in place in 2016.”  

The rest of the funds will be used to support eradication campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and India among others.

Rotary launched its polio immunization program PolioPlus in 1985 and has since contributed over US $1.5 billion. The organisation has been working with WHO, UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on global polio eradication Initiatives since 1988.

Through 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to $35 million a year.

 

 

 

 

 

Adisa Amanor Wilks

Adisa is an experienced international journalist and charity communications professional. I dream of when the African narrative will change to reflect the hope and beauty of the people.

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