This week, the world marks a tremendous milestone in the fight led by Rotary International to eradicate polio: one full year without a single case of polio caused by the wild polio virus in Africa.
A polio-free Africa has been within sight for more than a decade. Health workers, community leaders, government officials and global partners have vaccinated 230 million African children, often under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.
This achievement once seemed impossible but polio has now been stopped in Africa.
Africa’s last polio case occurred in Somalia on 11 August last year. Nigeria, one of the last three polio-endemic countries, reached one year without a reported case on 24 July this year.
When Africa has not had a case of polio for three years, the World Health Organisation will certify the region as polio-free. Yet this progress, momentous as it is, is still fragile.
As long as polio exists in the two remaining endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the virus still has the potential to spread and to spark new outbreaks locally, and through international travel, anywhere –even here in the UK.
Supported by ordinary people around the world making donations, Rotary International, with the support of WHO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, is fulfilling its promise to eradicate polio worldwide.
Rotary and its partners deserve our grateful thanks.