Africa’s Milestone: A Tale to Cherish


Amidst the depressing and horrifying situation of this COVID havoc, there’s a ray of happiness that is outshone on the saddened face of the world.

The news is from the world health organization which in its latest reports joyously announced the eradication of its longest-reigning sickness that is the crooked polio virus.

WHO considers this as a milestone in African history and praised the governments and late Nelson Mandela’s effective measures that helped them to tackle the problem which paralyzed its 75000 children and forced them to live a life of pain and agony.

The Polio virus stands second in the list of achievements for Africa after the smallpox challenge that it achieved 40 years ago.

How the Story Rolled In

The year 1996 when Africa lost its 75000 children’s physical ability to the hands of polio, it's then-leader Mr. Nelson Mandela started a movement named ‘kick polio out of Africa’ which was a unique cross-continental and cross sectored effort to protect the children from the hanging sword of paralysis.

Pincers That Showed up

There’s not a story that didn’t have challenges to tell. After the release of the campaign, the next big challenge was to bring this vision into reality.

The very first challenge was to deliver the newly discovered vaccine to the newborns, which itself was like boiling an ocean down.

Covering the scattered population divided into tribes and villages was no less than a nightmare to the African health workers.

Some of the African health workers confessed they sometimes felt that their body will no longer be able to keep it up, but it was their sheer determination that really helped them to come out of those barbaric conditions.

The Vicious Cycle

Little the government know the problem they were addressing was like the tip of the iceberg.

Once the first challenge was over another problem that arises was the rumors that were prevailing with the vaccine.

The rumors were that AIDS disease was one of the communicative diseases that spread with the vaccine.

At first, the problem may not seem very alarming but later with time government understood the fact that the fear that was buried in the parent’s heart may result in the avoidance of vaccines to their offspring.

the then African government rolled in various educational campaigns to educate people and to make them understand the necessity of the vaccine.

But the Hard Part Was Not Over

There was a reason I called that polio virus was like a tip of the iceberg, and I am going to justify it at this point.

The vaccine that was earlier introduced later discovered the presence of live polio virus strain which may act as a potent cause for the virus.

But again by the use of modern technologies, a new and rectified version with a strain of dead polio virus was introduced.

With this better version, earlier speculations were ruled out.

Violence Story

Now Africa's story is not limited to the rumors resulting in the avoidance of vaccines but the result included bloodshed.

Outside Nigeria, the conflict with the Islamist group resulted in the complete separation of the Borno state of Nigeria from the outer world and particularly from the vaccine.

Muslim religious leaders suspended the immunization practice stating the fact that it was a scheme through which the vaccine was contaminated to make Muslim women infertile and named it as an American scheme.

In the year 2013, although the campaign resumed the same year in Borno state the Boko haram carried out a dreadful shooting which resulted in the death of 9 people giving the vaccine.

Happy Ending 

Now on 25th august 2020, The independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) for Polio Eradication officially declared that the 47 countries in the UN World Health Organization (WHO) African Region are free of the virus, with no cases reported for four years.

“This is a momentous milestone for Africa. Now future generations of African children can live free of wild polio,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The Learnings

WHO officials said that this eradication achievement can have many other positive effects in the country.

Who’s African coordinator for the polio eradication program said that despite facing challenges like logistical inability, operational challenges, and weak medical system, countries collaborated effectively to achieve this milestone.

“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,” he said

Here cVDPV2 is referred to as vaccine-derived polio which poses a potent threat to Africa’s eradication program.

But on the bright side experts suggested that Africa now can tackle the newly emerged COVID virus with expertise thanks to the effort that was shown during the emergency time.

This milestone shows that no matter how long may the night been the sun of hope will rise up.

Written by - Yash Bundela

Edited by – Adrija Saha

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