Nigeria has experienced no cases of polio over the past 18 months thanks to a coordinated effort that included vaccinations, a public-information campaign and an improved health care sector, writes Scott Desmarais of McKinsey. "An important remaining question is where and how countries and international organizations can best deploy [emergency operations centers] to overcome other emergency health crises," he writes.
Somalia and Nigeria have gone one year without a polio case, meaning Africa is expected to be declared polio-free. The World Health Organization is turning its attention to Pakistan, which has reported 28 polio cases this year, and Afghanistan, which has found six cases. "Pakistan and Afghanistan need to finish the job as quickly as possible," says Oliver Rosenbauer of WHO's Global Polio Eradication Initiative. "They are the source of the fire and you don't want it spreading again as it has done in the past."
Nigeria's 36 governors and the minister of the Federal Capital Territory Abuja have each agreed to pursue eradication of polio in their areas, responding to a challenge by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To receive the promised $500,000 grants, the states must meet strict criteria confirmed by World Health Organization monitoring.
United Nations agencies and local partners are conducting a massive polio-vaccination campaign targeting 85 million children under 5 in 19 West and Central African countries. A 2008 outbreak that began in Nigeria has spread to neighboring countries, and the disease has re-emerged in areas previously declared polio-free.
Efforts to eradicate polio in West Africa are driving forward with improved logistic and public communication of vaccination drives reaching tens of millions of children in seven countries. Three more African countries will join the drive in May in an effort prevent any spread into countries previously declared polio-free.