A need to celebrate the African health victory amidst the pandemic

With the year 2020 being nothing short of catastrophic especially in the public health domain, there is a major victory that needs to be recognized and celebrated, coming out of the African region.

I grew up watching public interest advertisements about polio and how it affected children under five, how it paralyzed them and how it is irreversible. And I remember getting freaked out over this strange medical concern at a very young age. When India and the rest of South-East Asia was finally declared polio-free in 2014, I was overjoyed, until I went to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle and saw how polio was still affecting several other countries in the world, especially Africa. It was heartbreaking to say the least, but also eye-opening.

Last week however, on Aug. 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the complete eradication of the wild polio virus in all the 47 countries in its African region. This declaration followed the independent Africa Regional Certification Commission’s (ARCC) verification and announcement. Africa still has around 177 cases from the vaccine-derived polio virus however, the transmission of the wild polio virus has finally been stopped in the region.

The journey, to get to this point of eradication began some 24 years ago when the late South African President Nelson Mandela called upon the people to “kick polio out of Africa.” It also took coming together of several organizations involved in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) like Rotary, WHO, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Gates Foundation, and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, along with hundreds of volunteers, to join hands and work tirelessly on the solution.

When the “kick polio out of Africa” campaign started, there were almost 75,000 children who were contracting polio in the African region and were being paralyzed by the disease, each year. That’s in stark contrast to the present day but the fight is not yet over. There are still two countries where the disease needs to be stopped — Afghanistan and Pakistan — and it is equally important to ensure the vaccination efforts continue everywhere else.

But while there is so much to be afraid of, wary of and cautious of around us, it is also important to recognize and celebrate the victories when they come along. It is important, to appreciate and applaud the efforts of everyone involved in this journey and most importantly, it is one more reason to salute the health care workers around the globe who are, despite the pandemic, still focusing on several other diseases surrounding us and fighting for the best health care for all of us.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

BC VOTES 2020: John Rustad re-elected in Nechako Lakes riding

The result is based on preliminary vote count and the final results will be available after Nov.6

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read