Africa is on the verge of being declared polio free, after three years without any recorded cases of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nigeria marked three years without a wild polio case on Wednesday, a “major milestone”. If no more incidences emerge in the next few months, Africa could officially be declared polio free in 2020. The last case was recorded in Borno state in August 2016.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: “We are confident that soon we will be trumpeting the certification that countries have, once and for all, kicked polio out of Africa.”
She added that stopping the disease has not been easy and praised the “monumental effort” of health workers “on an unprecedented scale”. She said exhaustive surveillance of people on the move was a significant factor in the progress.
In 2012, 200 children in Nigeria were affected by polio, which can cause paralysis and life-long health complications. The number made up more than half of all global cases.
Those affected were particularly concentrated in the north-east of the country, where Boko Haram activity had made consistent access for health workers difficult. The group now controls far less territory.