Press Release.

Disclosures: Leke, Mkanda and Moeti report no relevant financial disclosures.
August 25, 2020
3 min read

‘A momentous milestone’: Africa declared free of wild poliovirus


Press Release.

Disclosures: Leke, Mkanda and Moeti report no relevant financial disclosures.
You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact

Africa is officially free of wild polio.

The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication announced Tuesday that the continent has eradicated wild poliovirus — the second virus eradicated from the continent after smallpox over 40 years ago.


“Today is a historic day for Africa,” Rose Gana Fomban Leke, PhD, ARCC chairperson, said in a statement.

Africa has gone 4 years without a case of wild polio, meeting the certification criteria for eradication, Leke said. The last case of wild poliovirus in Africa was detected in Nigeria in 2016.

The incidence of polio has been reduced by 99.9% since 1988. Tuesday’s announcement means Afghanistan and Pakistan are officially the only remaining countries where wild poliovirus is still endemic. According to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, as of Aug. 19, the countries have reported a total of 102 cases of wild polio — 65 in Pakistan and 37 in Afghanistan.

In 1996, when polio paralyzed an estimated 75,000 children annually, African leaders committed to eradicate the virus, WHO noted. Since 1996, polio eradication efforts have prevented up to 1.8 million children from lifelong paralysis and saved approximately 180,000 lives, it said.

“This is a momentous milestone for Africa,” Matshidiso Moeti, MD, MPH, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement. “Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio. This historic achievement was only possible thanks to the leadership and commitment of governments, communities, global polio eradication partners and philanthropists. I pay special tribute to the frontline health workers and vaccinators, some of whom lost their lives for this noble cause.”

“However, we must stay vigilant and keep up vaccination rates to avert a resurgence of the wild poliovirus and address the continued threat of the vaccine-derived polio,” Moeti said.

Although the eradication of wild poliovirus from Africa is a major achievement, 16 countries in the region are currently experiencing circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 outbreaks (cVDPV2), which can occur in underimmunized communities, according to WHO.

“Africa has demonstrated that despite weak health systems, significant logistical and operational challenges across the continent, African countries have collaborated very effectively in eradicating wild poliovirus,” Pascal Mkanda, MBBS, coordinator of WHO Polio Eradication Program in the African region, said in a statement. “With the innovations and expertise that the polio program has established, I am confident that we can sustain the gains, post-certification, and eliminate cVDPV2.”