AFRICA— The World Health Organization (WHO), through an independent Polio Outbreak Response Assessment Team (OBRA), has recommended that the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) outbreak in Malawi and Mozambique be closed, marking a critical milestone in Africa’s fight against polio.

According to this assessment, the last WPV1 incidence in Africa, attributed to a strain circulating in Pakistan, occurred in Mozambique’s Tete Province in August 2022.

Nine cases were found in Mozambique and neighboring Malawi, where the outbreak was reported in February 2022.

More than 50 million children in five southern African nations have been immunized against the virus as part of a coordinated response.

The effective end of this outbreak represents the unshakable commitment and joint efforts of African governments, health professionals, communities, and Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, as well as the crucial assistance of Rotarians on the ground.

Both countries have effectively restricted the virus’s spread through strong surveillance, quality vaccination efforts, and increased community engagement, protecting their children’s health and well-being.

Health authorities in Malawi and Mozambique, as well as all districts bordering other countries involved in the response, including Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, have implemented national preventative plans with high-quality technical support from GPEI.

More than 100 million vaccination doses have been provided in the most vulnerable areas. The method for getting ahead of this outbreak and stopping it before it spread was based on meticulous micro-planning, which included mapping of cross-border communities, migratory pathways, cross-border entry/exit ports, and transit routes for each of the cross-border facilities.

Synchronization and coordination of vaccination plans across five nations, as well as monitoring of immunization efforts, were critical in identifying and reaching all eligible children in cross-border areas, thereby avoiding the risk of viral paralysis.

Commenting on the achievement, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the success demonstrates what can be accomplished when people work together with devotion and determination.

He praised Malawi and Mozambique’s governments, as well as all others involved in the response, for their relentless efforts to limit the outbreak and continue to strengthen their vaccination systems, improve surveillance, and provide life-saving vaccines to all children.

In her speech, Etleva Kadilli, UNICEF Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, stated that the official closure of the outbreak is a true success due to the governments of Mozambique, Malawi, and neighboring countries, as well as all partners and health workers.

She praised the vaccination staff on the front lines for their tireless efforts to reach every kid, emphasizing the need of routine immunization; no child is protected from polio until all children are vaccinated.

According to Dr. Chris Elias, president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, polio outbreaks can be closed if national governments, local health workers, community mobilizers, and global partners prioritize a rapid and timely response to protect children from this devastating disease.

He went on to say that Malawi, Mozambique, and the entire southern African region are setting a good example of how to urgently enhance vaccination programs and disease surveillance systems, thereby contributing to a world free of all kinds of poliovirus.

Health experts, the OBRA team, and GPEI coordinators on the ground underscored the pivotal role of enhanced polio surveillance, high-quality community engagement in vaccination campaigns, and timely outbreak response, including the rapid deployment of experts and other field responders, to curb the spread of the virus.

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