On the 25th of September 2015 it was announced by the World Health Organisation [WHO] that Nigeria was no longer on the list of polio-endemic countries. This is of course a massive achievement for the efforts of End Polio Now, which is the organisation that is looking to eradicate polio throughout the entire world. As it stands there are only two countries left on this list, Pakistan and Afghanistan. For the average person this news is one of scientific excellence and a real kudos to the efforts of the people involved in completing this feat.
However, I have polio and I contracted it in my home country of Nigeria, so this news was especially personal to me. This announcement meant that what I and millions of others have gone through is seemingly over, we are very nearly at the finish line. Should there be no new cases of polio in Nigeria after 2 years, this would mean that the entire continent of Africa has eradicated polio completely. This would be such a great day as the hardship that myself and others have had to face will be removed and cease to exist.
Having polio at such a young age meant that I was spared the suffering of having to remember all the things that I would have been able to do before I contracted this disease. As I do not know a time before I had polio, it was easier for me to adjust to the condition as it has always been with me as far as I could remember. But the effects of the condition are still felt, I can’t run, I get tired easily, and I have to wear a leg brace to keep me from constantly falling over.
Thankfully, as I grew up in London, I have been afforded opportunities that I may not have gotten had I still lived in Nigeria. But the struggle is still present in this large city in Europe, there are too many stairs, and not enough lifts. Having to deal with the constant questions, and comments and the fear of getting bullied at school. And other obstacles that cannot be avoided due to my condition. But still, I am one of the lucky ones as polio did not take my life, or leave me paralysed. Hearing the news made me keep hope alive that I will live to see the complete eradication of polio and a brighter for Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
For too long, whenever people think of Africa or are exposed to it in the media, there’s an image of the starving African. A child that that has nothing to eat or drink or the corrupt leaders that have led the nations into such a state. So for once it was heart warming to hear such good news from my continent and all the people on the ground that made it possible. This was made even sweeter as not long after, October 1st came around marking the 55th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence, as well as the start of Black History Month.
I feel that there is a lot to celebrate, this is only the beginning of achievements that come from Africa. Having had to grow up with polio, I know how difficult it is to live with this terrible affliction, so I am happy to be alive during a time when we are so close to eradicating this forever. When no children, families or communities will be shaken by this horrible disease.