WHO laments COVID-19 erosion of gains made in Africa's polio war
The COVID-19 pandemic is eroding gains made in Africa's fight against polio, leaving many children at risk, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom.
Tedros noted that the world has shifted focus towards tackling the spread of COVID-19 at the expense of other deadly diseases.
His report comes less than two months after the Africa Regional Certification Commission certified the WHO African Region as wild polio-free after four years without a case.
"The COVID-19 pandemic hurt momentum as polio and immunization efforts were suspended," he said.
The last case of wild poliovirus in the continent was detected in Nigeria in 2016.
According to WHO, since 1996 polio eradication efforts have prevented up to 1.8 million children from crippling life-long paralysis and saved approximately 180,000 lives.
Tedros in his remarks on Thursday called for more funding to address immunization gaps that have been created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We need to turn the tide quickly and ensure no child is left behind," said Tedros, noting that children were also now at risk from contracting other diseases including measles and pneumonia.
"While the world watches intently as scientists work to ensure safe and effective vaccines are developed for COVID-19, it is important to ensure that all children receive the lifesaving vaccines that are already available," he added.