Nigeria: Polio’s Last African Stronghold
It is easy to forget the rows of iron lungs that filled hospital wards at the height of the polio outbreaks in the 1940s and 1950s, and it is easy to forget that it starts with a simple fever and ends in irreversible paralysis. We have forgotten what it is like to suffer from this undiscriminating disease.
Fortunately, polio has largely been eradicated, but for those living in the countries in which it remains endemic, the disease continues to be a threat. Launched in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has seen over the years seen a 99% drop in the number of polio cases. In 1994, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Region of the Americas, consisting of 36 countries, was certified polio-free. In 2000, 37 more countries across the Western Pacific Region all gained that stamp of approval and the 51 countries of the European region followed in June 2002.
Today, polio’s playground is largely restricted to three countries, which remain polio endemic. Whenever a global effort reaches its last mile, it serves to highlight the weakest among us – those with systemic problems unlike elsewhere. Regarding polio, these are Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.
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