Global efforts to fight polio have seen the cases drop by 99 per cent.
In a message marking World Polio Day on Tuesday, WHO regional director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, praised what he termed as “Africa’s tremendous progress towards the eradication of the disease”.
“Since the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) nearly 30 years ago, new cases of polio have dropped by 99.9 per cent, from about 350,000 cases annually, when the world saw about 1,000 cases per day in the 1980s, to just 37 cases globally in 2016,” Dr Moeti said.
He described polio as an incurable but vaccine-preventable disease that still threatens children in a few areas around the world, adding that there is need to galvanise support to eradicate it.
World Polio Day was set aside by the Rotary International over a decade ago to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis.
According to the WHO website, the use of this inactivated poliovirus vaccine and subsequent widespread use of a vaccine developed by Albert Sabin resulted in the GPEI in 1988.
“As of 2013, GPEI had reduced polio worldwide by 99 per cent,” the website says.
WHO reports that the African region made tremendous progress towards the eradication of polio, from accounting for almost half of the global polio burden, with 128 cases in 2012 to just four in 2016.