In-pictures: Towards a polio-free Africa

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease that can cause irreversible paralysis. Targeted for global eradication, polio has been stopped in all countries but three—Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Polio does not stop at national borders and therefore requires a multilateral or regional response. National and regional bodies, including governments, civil society organizations, and the corporate sector, need to collaborate and prioritize coordinated and well-funded immunization efforts.

The Red Cross Red Crescent brings a combination of services, including routine vaccinations, to people’s doorsteps to bridge the health divide for people with little or no access to health care and information. Our 1.6 million volunteers in Africa have the greatest access and largest potential to operationalize a wide array of health and care activities as they live and work in the communities they serve. Juozas Cernius/IFRC


In South Sudan, Red Cross collects data on people reached (and missed) on pre-programmed mobile phones. Data is then transferred to a database by a trained supervisor and shared with government health authorities. It details the exact location of missed households using GPS, and indicates  the number of children that still needed to be vaccinated. Using this method of data collection, health workers were able to determine the overall immunization coverage prior to the campaign. Data is not only essential to monitoring the success of the campaign but also helps inform the planning for future rounds of immunizations. Juozas Cernius/IFRC


Trained volunteers, who are a part of their community and speak the same language, can help reach the most inaccessible, poor and marginalized communities. To succeed and sustain health gains, health  volunteers and workers must be integrated into national community health care programmes. Only through such action can we ensure that every African child is immunized against this potentially deadly but preventable disease.  Juozas Cernius/IFRC


Polio eradication entails greater access to a combination of essential lifesaving, culturally acceptable health care services through community-led engagement. This will ensure that the spread of infectious diseases like polio is interrupted, and ultimately, eradicated. Juozas Cernius/IFRC


According to WHO, failure to stop polio in the last remaining countries could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within ten years, all over the world. In 2013, only 77 per cent of infants in Africa received the polio vaccine. Juozas Cernius/IFRC