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Although Africa has gone eight months without any new cases of wild polio for the first time, the continent has witnessed the majority of global polio cases in 2013. Africa is home to one of the three last countries in the world where polio is still endemic, Nigeria. In 2013, sub-Saharan Africa showed the worst polio immunization record of any region. Central African Republic had the world’s lowest polio vaccination rate, with just 23 per cent of children immunized against the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Executing effective health responses to interrupt the transmission of polio comes with many challenges. While the political will exists, national vaccination programmes often struggle to reach populations which are vulnerable to outbreaks. Many African communities live in remote rural areas or are nomadic pastoralist, which makes them difficult for government-led vaccination campaigns to reach.
The issue of access to vulnerable populations is exacerbated by suspicion and misunderstandings about  the nature and purpose of the vaccination. In some countries, conflict and violence, which have a  profoundly devastating effect on the infrastructure of health systems, including those supporting vaccinations, leave people even further out of reach.

A successful effort to eradicate polio in Africa depends on the collaboration of all stakeholders in supporting governments’ efforts to dramatically increase vaccination coverage in all vulnerable regions of the continent, with a focus on those populations which face barriers in accessing health care, including routine immunization.

The key to IFRC’s contribution to the eradication of polio is our mission of ensuring equitable access to adequate health services for the most vulnerable and underserved populations through Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers. IFRC will continue investing in community-based health approaches, driven by the community health work force, including our volunteers, who are essential in bringing integrated health care service, like routine vaccinations, to the doorsteps of those who need it most.