On August 25th the WHO - The World Health Organization - declared Africa finally free of the polio virus, the transmission of the virus has been blocked in all African regions.

This is historic news, we are moving towards the total eradication of the polio virus, priority of the Rotary International.

It is an excellent example given by Rotary and its partners in being able to eradicate after years of hard battles an enemy like polio, perseverance and commitment and coordination were the key words.

The African region’s wild polio-free certification was celebrated during a livestream event. Speakers included Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Bill Gates, Rotary International President Holger Knaack, Nigeria PolioPlus chair Dr. Tunji Funsho, and representatives of other GPEI partners.

The certification was granted by the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) after it established that Africa has no new cases, analysed documentation of polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan.

Since 1996, countless Rotary members from across Africa and around the world have raised funds, immunized children, and promoted vaccinations, enabling the GPEI to respond to and stop polio outbreaks. More than 9 billion doses of oral polio vaccine have been provided throughout the region, preventing an estimated 1.8 million cases of paralysis. Each year, about 2 million volunteers help vaccinate 220 million children against polio multiple times in the African region.

Rotary members have contributed nearly $890 million toward polio eradication efforts in the African region. The funds have allowed Rotary to issue PolioPlus grants to fund polio surveillance, transportation, awareness campaigns, and National Immunization Days.

The GPEI’s challenge now is to eradicate wild poliovirus in the two countries where the disease has never been stopped: Afghanistan and Pakistan. Additionally, routine immunization in Africa must also be strengthened to keep the wild poliovirus from returning and to protect children against circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, which is rare but continues to infect people in parts of the African region

As Rotary International President Holger Knaack said: “let’s be honest, in the face of a pandemic, the world has not as much good news to celebrate in global health this year, and the challenges ahead are formidable, that’s why we must recognise the great achievement and commend all of the people who played important roles in reaching of this milestone. It took tremendous effort of many years.”