Africa was certified as polio-free in 2020, after years of hard fighting against the disease and its spread, with the last indigenous case of wild polio recorded there in 2016. As of this infographic using World Bank data shows though, wild polio has not yet been eradicated globally.
The disease is still endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan and a small number of ‘imported’ cases detected in Africa in 2021 and 2022.
To aid in this ongoing fight the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced recently that it was committing $1.2 billion to help in the eradication of all forms of polio.
As detailed in a statement on the foundation’s website: “The new financial commitment will support implementation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026, which aims to end wild poliovirus in the last two endemic countries—Pakistan and Afghanistan—and stop outbreaks of new variants of the virus.”
Bill Gates is quoted as saying,“Polio eradication is within reach. But as far as we have come, the disease remains a threat. Working together, the world can end this disease”.
With one recorded case in 2021, and seven so far in 2022, a reversal would at first glance appear to be underway in Africa. The continent still retains its polio-free status so far though, as the initial cases detected in 2022 were not indigenous, having been traced back to a strain circulating in Pakistan in 2019.
The potentially fatal virus, which mainly affects children under 5 years old and can cause irreversible paralysis has no known cure, however, a properly administered vaccine will protect children for life.