The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially removed Nigeria from its list of polio endemic countries, according to a press release. According to the WHO, “this is the first time that Nigeria has interrupted transmission of wild poliovirus, bringing the country and the African region closer than ever to being certified polio-free.”
The WHO also stated “as recently as 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide.” They also congratulated Nigeria and international partners saying “since then, concerted effort by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders, and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers have resulted in Nigeria successfully stopping polio.”
Dr. Ado Muhammad, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in Nigeria, responded to this news saying: “We Nigerians are proud today. With local innovation and national persistence, we have beaten polio. We know our vigilance and efforts must continue in order to keep Nigeria polio-free.”
Nigeria’s removal from the WHO polio endemic list leaves only two countries classified as “polio endemic”—Afghanistan and Pakistan. The WHO also said in a statement that, “after 3 years have passed without a case of wild poliovirus on the [African] continent, official 'certification' of polio eradication will be conducted at the regional level in Africa.”
Since 1988, when a robust campaign to eliminate polio began, instances of polio transmission have been reduced by 99 percent. More than 350,000 children were paralyzed by polio annually in 1988. In 2015, only 41 confirmed cases of polio transmission were recorded (32 in Pakistan and 9 in Afghanistan), according to the WHO.