Thanks to the enormous efforts of individuals like Dr Tunji Funsho, as at 25th August 2020, the entire continent of Africa was declared Polio-free. This victory was achieved as Nigeria became the last African country to beat the infectious disease, now leaving regions like Afghanistan and Pakistan as the only countries in the world where the Polio endemic remains. According to reports, more than 95% of Africa’s population has now been immunised – which was one of the conditions that the Africa Regional Certification Commission set before declaring the continent free from wild Polio.
Former cardiologist and chair of Rotary International’s Polio eradication program in Nigeria, Dr Funsho was at the forefront of this fight. According to TIME, “Together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO, the CDC and UNICEF, Funsho and Rotary helped lead National Immunisation Days, getting millions of doses of the polio vaccine to children in cities and villages around the nation.” Numerous sponsored health-education initiatives in local community centres, mosques, etc. were also held in a bid to increase awareness of this disease and provide vaccines.
The vaccination campaign in Nigeria involved huge efforts by Funsho and several others to reach remote areas and even regions under threat from militant violence, some health workers losing their lives in the process.
In 2018, Funsho told TIME, “Certification will be an achievement, but we’re not in a hurry for that. We’re in a hurry to make sure no child is paralysed.”