Via The Globe and Mail, Geoffrey York has some good news: Nigeria makes crucial progress in eradicating polio. Excerpt:
On the edge of the war zone, near the territory controlled by the murderous thugs of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, the hit-and-run teams waited patiently for the go-ahead from the security forces.
When the soldiers decided the moment was right, the mobile units rushed into the war zone – not to shoot or attack, but in a frantic effort to vaccinate children against polio. A few hours later, they rushed back to safety.
Hit-and-run immunizations are just another of the extraordinary tactics in a relentless campaign to eradicate the polio virus from one of its last havens. Today the campaign is close to a historic breakthrough: eliminating polio from Africa for the first time.
Nigeria, always the final barrier for African anti-polio campaigns, hasn’t recorded a single new case of the wild polio virus since July. Only six cases have been recorded in Nigeria this year – a dramatic 90-per-cent decline from last year.
This is crucial progress, since Nigeria has been the sole reservoir for the spread of the virus to dozens of other African countries. It would leave Pakistan and Afghanistan as the only remaining countries in the world where polio is still endemic.
“We can see light at the end of the tunnel,” says Tunji Funsho, chairman of the Rotary PolioPlus Committee in Nigeria. “All the hard work that we’ve been doing is seeming to pay off now.”
With the help of foreign donors and strict new government policies supporting huge vaccination campaigns, Nigeria is closer than ever to eliminating the potentially paralyzing disease, although technically it must go three years without new cases before it can be declared polio-free. That would be a major step toward the defeat of polio. It could become only the second human disease ever to be eradicated by vaccine. (Smallpox was the first.)
“We were tired of the stigma of being the last African country with polio,” said Oyewale Tomori, president of the Nigerian Academy of Science and chairman of Nigeria’s polio expert review committee. “There was a real spirit to get it done, a real determination.”