WHO country representative Juliet Nabyonga lauds Kenya for stepping up war on polio

Polio vaccine

A child receiving a polio vaccine. A new vaccine that has the potential to shield against outbreaks caused by a mutated polio strain will only be given under special conditions.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has lauded Kenya for stepping up war  against polio.

“I applaud the government of Kenya for the good progress it has made to maintain its ‘polio-free status,” said WHO Country Representative Juliet Nabyonga, in her address to mark the World Polio Day on October 24 in Nairobi.

 “Kenya has ensured that all children that are at risk of polio are reached with vaccines through routine immunisation as well as through vaccination campaigns,” she added.

At the same time she observed that Kenya had made good progress in the surveillance network that has ensured that any possible case of polio is addressed to stop transmission.

 “This year, Kenya detected type 2 circulating vaccine derived polio viruses in Garissa and Mombasa Counties. The response that included vaccination and strengthening surveillance resulted to cessation of transmission,” noted Dr Nabyonga

She commended the Ministry of Health for its quick response in the fight against polio.

Polio eradication

She also thanked multilateral and bilateral partners who have been steadfast in the global journey of polio eradication and singled out Rotarians, United States Centers for Diseases, Unicef, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, among other partners for their immense contribution.

She reiterated that WHO remains firmly committed to bring the polio eradication agenda to a successful completion soon.

 “This is a marathon, we are on the final stretch and we must cross the finish line,” she said.

She urged parents to ensure that all children are vaccinated against polio.   

Every October 24, people around the world shine a spotlight on the importance of global eradication of polio. The fight against the crippling disease poliomyelitis is not yet won and more needs to be done to eradicate the disease.

In 1988, WHO member states made a declaration to eradicate polio by the year 2000.

This target was missed, and other targets have been missed in the last two decades.

However, significant progress has been made since 1988 in reducing the number of polio cases from 350,000 to 140 in 2020 and two as of October 2021.

Endemic countries reduced

The number of endemic countries reduced from more than 125 countries to two countries.

Among the three strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, type 2 and type 3), type 2 wild poliovirus was eradicated in 1999 and the last case of wild poliovirus type 3 was last reported in November 2012 in Nigeria.

“We are at the tail end to complete the eradication of polio from the face of the earth,” said Dr Nabyonga.

She said this achievement has been made possible due to global coordination of the eradication agenda by the global polio eradication initiative and the commitment of countries to vaccinate all children.

Member states, Foundations, Rotarians, Clubs, United Nations and other donors have made major financial contributions to the polio eradication agenda.

However, Dr Nabyonga noted that despite the good progress made in the polio eradication agenda, new challenges have emerged.

 “These challenges include reduction in funding, emergencies of circulating vaccine derived polio viruses and insecurities especially in polio endemic countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan. These are challenges that we must overcome,” she offered.