The World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that transmission of the wild poliovirus has officially been stopped in all 47 countries of its African region.
This is a historic and vital step toward global eradication of polio, which is Rotary's top priority. After decades of hard won gains in the region, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) - WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foun dation, and Gavi, the vaccine alliance - are proclaiming the milestone an achievement in public health. They offer it as proof that strong commitment, coordination, and perseverance can rid the world of polio.
The certification that the African region is free of wild poliovirus comes after the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) conducted thorough field verifications that confirmed no new cases and analyzed documentation of polio surveillance, immunization, and laboratory capacity by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan. The commission had already accepted the documentation of the other 43 countries in the region.
The last cases of polio caused by the wild virus in the African region were recorded in Nigeria's northern state of Borno in August 2016, after two years with no cases. Conflict, along with challenges in reaching mobile populations, had hampered efforts to immunize children there.
Now that the African region is free of wild poliovirus, five of WHO's six regions, representing more than 90 percent of the world's population, are now free of the disease. Polio caused by the wild virus is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the WHO' s Eastern Mediterranean region.
Rotarians around the world have been donating and volunteering to support Rotary International's goal of eradicating polio, including members of the Rotary Club of Livermore (RCL). To date, RCL members have given more than $230,000 to the Polio Plus campaign, a philanthropic priority for club member Brian Mayall.
Club member Beth Wilson went on a Rotary Inter national-sponsored trip to India to help immunize children there.
"India has been free of the wild polio for several years, but in the many extremely poor villages and neighborhoods, polio could easily grab hold again,” she said. “It's vital that we continue to immunize the children under 5 years regularly to stop that from happening. It was a real eye-opener to see the conditions that millions of people in this world live in. Being a part of a team administering vaccine to children in India was the most memorable event of my life."
The Rotary Club of Livermore remains active during the shelter-in-place orders, including holding regular club meetings via Zoom. Rotarians continue to be ‘people of action’ and invite other service-minded community members to join their ranks.