31st January 2023
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S.Sudan set to be declared polio-free

Author: Jale Richard | Published: Saturday, June 20, 2020

File: A child receives polio vaccine in South Sudan recently | Credit | WHO

South Sudan is set to be declared polio-free in August.

This comes after the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC), a body responsible for certifying the eradication of wild poliovirus in the World Health Organization African Region, accepted South Sudan’s complete documentation for wild polio virus-free status early this week.

Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Nigeria are also set to acquire the status after they all presented evidence of their fight towards the eradication of polio.

“Following field verification visits over the past year and thorough critical analysis of the documentation of the polio surveillance, immunization and laboratory capacity presented by the governments of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan, the Commission has validated that the countries’ documentation grants them wild polio-free status,” the Commission said in a statement on Friday.

In August 2019, the African Region became eligible to be certified free of wild poliovirus, after Nigeria, the last wild poliovirus endemic country, recorded no new cases three years – the requisite period – since it last reported cases of wild poliovirus.

The commission had already accepted the documentation of the other 43 countries in the region.

“We are satisfied with the documentation that the four countries have presented. We are reviewing updated reports from the other 43 countries in the WHO African Region and we anticipate that by August 2020, we will deliver our final decision on the region’s certification status of wild poliovirus eradication,” said Professor Rose Leke, ARCC Chairperson.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa sais the achievement by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Nigeria, and South Sudan “is a major step towards the eradication of wild poliovirus in the African region.”

According to the Commission, if the region is certified in August, it would be the fifth of the six WHO regions to be declared free of wild polio. However, it says, the scale of ongoing circulating vaccine-derived polio outbreaks is a battle the region is striving to win,

“Efforts are underway to urgently address the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus outbreaks, also within the context of polio eradication being a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.  Even though they are not wild polioviruses, such rare strains – which can emerge in areas of low population immunity – also paralyze children,” the Commission explained.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mass immunizations across the region have been postponed until further notice, which hinders outbreak response activities.

Polio is a viral disease, that is transmitted from person to person, mainly through a fecal-oral route or, less frequently, through contaminated water or food, and multiplies inside the intestines.

While there is no cure for polio, the disease can be prevented through the administration of a simple and effective vaccine.

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