Africa has been declared free from wild polio by the independent body, the Africa Regional Certification Commission and UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).
Polio usually affects children under five, sometimes leading to irreversible paralysis. Death can occur when breathing muscles are affected.
Twenty-five years ago thousands of children in Africa were paralysed by the virus.
The disease is now only found in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There is no cure but the polio vaccine protects children for life.
Nigeria is the last country in Africa to have reported a case of wild polio – in Borno state in Nigeria’s remote north-east, and the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurrection, in 2016.
How did Africa eliminate wild polio
Without a cure a vaccine developed in 1952 by Dr Jonas Salk gave hope that children could be protected from the disease. In 1961, Albert Sabin pioneered the oral polio vaccine which has been used in most national immunisation programmes around the world.
In 1996 poliovirus paralysed more than 75,000 children across the continent – every country was affected.
That year Nelson Mandela launched the “Kick Polio Out of Africa” programme, mobilising millions of health workers who went village-to-village to hand-deliver vaccines.
It was backed by a coalition of groups including Rotary International which had spearheaded the polio vaccination drive from the 1980s.
Since 1996 billions of oral polio vaccines have been provided, averting an estimated 1.8 million cases of wild poliovirus.