Africa set to be declared polio free as Nigeria marks three years without the disease –

A baby receives a polio vaccination in Kano State, Nigeria CREDIT: ANDREW ESEIDO

Nigeria is set to mark three years since it saw its last case of polio on Wednesday – an important landmark on the road to official eradication of this deadly childhood disease.

Nigeria is the last country in Africa to record wild poliovirus infections, but if no more cases are found in the next few months the whole continent could soon be declared polio free.

Wiping out the disease in Africa is a huge milestone as there were still around 20,000 cases every year at the beginning of the millennium.

The last reservoir of the disease was the conflict-riven Borno State in north eastern Nigeria, where the presence of militant group Boko Haram prevented health workers from getting out to vaccinate children – the only way to eradicate polio.

Dr Tunji Funsho, chairman of Nigeria’s polio committee for Rotary International, said that the liberation of the area from Boko Haram had been key to ensuring no new cases of polio surfaced.

“The challenge was in the north east, particularly in Borno State, but in the last three years we have been able to access more than 90 per cent of children that we were not able to access in 2016,” he said.

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