The world has not seen the last of this disease. Almost eradicated in 2000, polio has returned with a vengeance after the local authorities in the north of Nigeria tragically halted vaccinations — for over a year, in 2003. The World Health Organization is taking stock.
Twenty years after the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched, the number of cases was reduced by no less than 99%. But today, the disease remains endemic in 4 countries: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Nigeria alone accounts for 82% of the total number of cases reported worldwide in 2008.
Without disregarding the impressive inroads that have been done in the area of eradication, the World Health Organisation, nonetheless, points out that as long as a single child continues to be infected, children all over the world will be at risk.
Contrary to the eradication efforts, the polio virus is a long way from being contained.
In recent times, the Nigerian strain of the virus has been identified in non African countries, including Yemen and Indonesia.
As for Africa, the disease is being passed on again in Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. The WHO explains that the cases in the affected African countries are only outbreaks and describes them as manageable.
According to the International health body, the outbreaks have nothing to do with the persistent pockets of polio transmission that are now the focus of their efforts: the north of India, the north of Nigeria and the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Despite the outbreaks and persistence of the disease in Nigeria the WHO remains confident that the disease will eventually be eradicated.