I am overjoyed that today, thanks to 25 years of coordination and commitment by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO), wild poliovirus no longer threatens our children and future generations of children across the African continent.
The achievement is all the more remarkable as the result of an instrumental campaign to vaccinate children in Northern Nigeria, a region that is choked by terrorist extremist rule. As of today, Africa is the fifth of six global regions to be officially declared wild poliovirus-free; with cases of the virus now found only in the eastern Mediterranean region. This milestone has been achieved through successfully scaling up and sustaining the delivery of vaccines to children in the hardest-to-reach places throughout Africa.
My Wellbeing Foundation Africa has proudly supported the communities we work with to detect, interrupt, and eliminate the wild poliovirus, alongside our global and national partners. Our programmes give mothers access to information on the safety and importance of vaccines, and our Personal Health Records are now a necessity in order to empower them to make immunisation choices in the best interests of their children. Now, thanks to the tireless efforts of so many working to ensure polio vaccines reach the most remote corners of the world, more than 18 million children who would have faced polio paralysis in the past are walking freely towards healthy futures.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt health services, damage health systems and burden health workers, it is imperative that we come together globally, again, to address the public health challenges of the future. We must strengthen routine immunization programs in Nigeria, specifically to achieve full eradication of all forms of polio, including circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus, which remains prevalent in areas with weak or partial immunization coverage. To build on this enormous success, we must sustain our commitment to mass immunization campaigns, and we must do more to stop dangerous misinformation from spreading.
Today marks a truly momentous milestone. My Wellbeing Foundation Africa offers our deepest congratulations and respect to the heroic health workers, community leaders, and volunteers who have contributed to this tremendous success. Congratulations, Africa!