Journey to a Polio-Free Africa: Nigeria's Eradication Milestone
*** Update May 2017: In 2016, 4 new cases of polio were documented in northern Nigeria, and Nigeria remains one of only three countries in the world with ongoing wild polio transmission. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is focusing on refining surveillance and closing immunity gaps, and maintaining political commitment, financial resources and technical support at all levels until eradication is achieved. So far in 2017, not a single case has been reported.
In 1988, polio was endemic in 125 countries. On September 25, 2015, that number became 2. After marking one year without a wild polio case, Nigeria—which just three years ago accounted for more than half the world’s cases—was officially removed from the list of polio-endemic countries. (Still remaining: Afghanistan and Pakistan.)
It’s a triumph for Nigerians, for Africa and for the millions of people around the world who have committed themselves to eradicating this ancient, cruel disease. How did it happen? In 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) began—WHO, Rotary International, CDC, UNICEF and other partners took aim at eliminating the disease. The effort has become the largest collective public health movement in history.
Nigeria’s achievement is truly remarkable. So many obstacles were overcome—an immunization boycott, a brutal Boko Haram insurgency, the challenge of reaching every child in even the most remote villages. Armies of women mobilized alongside religious and community leaders, polio survivors and volunteer vaccinators going door-to-door to win hearts, change minds—and save millions of children from a paralyzing disease. Here is their story: