AFRICA – The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti has urged governments to ramp up eradication efforts as the world marks World Polio Day 2022.

In commemoration of this year’s celebrations, she said that for the African Region, ramping up eradication efforts means improved surveillance and high-quality immunisation campaigns targeting zero-dose children for vaccination against all polio strains.

On World Polio Day today, I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the dedicated health workers who are delivering on the polio promise, going door-to-door to administer vaccines in often challenging circumstances, to safeguard every eligible child,” Dr. Moeti announced in a statement.

Every year on 24th October, World Polio Day is premised on highlighting global efforts toward a polio-free world while honoring the unwavering commitment of those on the frontlines of the fight to eradicate polio.

The theme for this year, “World Polio Day 2022 and Beyond: A healthier future for mothers and children”, kicked off with discussions in Geneva between WHO, Rotary International and polio experts, to consider future efforts to continue the decades-long collaboration against polio,” Dr. Moeti said.

She emphasized that since the landmark resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio was adopted in 1988 at the 41st World Health Assembly, global efforts have achieved a more than 99.9% decrease in polio cases.

As many as 20 million children have been spared disability and are walking today. Two of the three strains of wild poliovirus (Type 2 and Type 3) have been certified as eradicated, and in 2020 the African Region was certified as free of indigenous wild polio,” the WHO Director for Africa outlined.

In addition, Dr. Moeti lauded the progress toward global polio eradication as it has safeguarded millions of children and their families from the crippling virus while noting that it critical for Africa to stamp out new cases of wild polio, as well as to safeguard our wild polio-free certification status.

However, detections of new outbreaks, including in areas where polio was believed to have been eradicated, is a stark reminder that if we do not deliver on our promise to eradicate all forms of polio, everywhere, no child is safe anywhere,” Dr. Moeti observed.

She further acknowledged that the significant global commitment to fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) 2022-2026 Strategy to end polio, at the 2022 World Health Summit polio pledging event earlier this month, was extremely encouraging.

In a show of global solidarity, the host country Germany, along with 15 other countries, as well as charities, international organisations, and numerous private sector initiatives, committed more than US$ 2.6 billion to the strategy – more than half the total target,” Dr. Moeti disclosed.

The WHO AFRO Director stressed that with the renewed financial commitment, countries now have a critical opportunity to ramp up eradication efforts, adding that the polio response has prompted innovative digital technologies to identify, track and best deliver vaccines.

Our endeavors to deliver a polio-free world are also helping strengthen the greater public health system, boosting the overall response to other health threats and emergencies,” she said. 

Dr. Moeti highlighted that the polio structure has been instrumental in supporting surveillance and the COVID-19 vaccine rollout globally while noting that it is increasing the efficiency of the Region’s emergency responses to diseases including measles and cholera.

It is critical that we continue to advance our polio transition plans in tandem with eradication efforts, in order to best leverage our limited public health resources. Let us continue to support one another as we accelerate efforts in Africa, and globally, to end polio once and for all,” she added.

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