Polio-free certification: WHO South-East Asia

7th Meeting of the South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication (SEA-RCCPE) - New Delhi, India, 26-27 March 2014

The WHO South-East Asia Region has been maintaining its polio-free status for the last 3 years. After the last wild polio case was reported from India on 13 January 2011, the Region is firmly on track for polio-free certification in March 2014.

In order to ensure all the requirements for certification of polio eradication are met by the Member States, a review of the annual updates of respective national documentation including phase-1 laboratory containment reports will be conducted during the 7th meeting of the SEA-RCCPE. This review will take place in the WHO Regional Office in New Delhi, India on 26-27 March 2014.

A formal process for the certification of global polio eradication was set up based on the experience gained during smallpox eradication. In 1995, the WHO Director-General established the Global Certification Commission for Polio Eradication. The respective Regional Commission came to life in 1997 and national certification committees for polio eradication of the 11 countries in the Region were established by the end of 1998. As no single country can be certified as polio-free; a WHO Region is certified as a whole after all its countries sustain no new transmissions for 3 years.

The Regional Certification Commission's work

The SEA-RCCPE comprises a group of senior public health experts from within the Region as well as from other WHO regions. The commission works as an independent body and uses their technical expertise to guide the Member States in preparing documentation for Regional certification of polio eradication. This impartial and transparent verification process leads to certification as polio-free.

The WHO Region of the Americas was certified polio-free in 1994, the Western Pacific Region in 2000 and the European Region in 2002 as polio-free on 27 March 2014. Based on the SEA-RCCPE's assessment of the evidence provided by the National Certification Committees (NCC) of the 11 Member States for several years culminating at the 7th meeting during 26-27 March 2014, the WHO South-East Region is expected to be certified polio-free.

Facts about polio certification

In 1988, the 41st World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. Here are some polio certification facts:

  • For certification, all countries in the WHO Region need to have no case of wild polio for 3 consecutive years in presence of high quality AFP surveillance systems.
  • No single country can be certified as polio-free. WHO regions as a whole are certified as polio-free.
  • The formal process for certification of polio eradication was established in 1995 at the first meeting of the Global Certification Commission (GCC).
  • There are national certification committees (NCCs) that prepare national documentations for certification of polio eradication at the country level. In WHO's South-East Asia Region, each of the 11 Member States has an NCC.
  • All regions have a certification commission. In South-East Asia the Regional Certification Commission comprises 11 global and regional experts. It is this commission that can certify the South-East Asia Region as polio-free.
  • Three regions (Americas, 1994; Western Pacific, 2000; Europe, 2002) have already been certified as polio-free.

About poliomyelitis (polio)
Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

WHO fact sheet on polio
10 facts on polio eradication
About Vaccine derived polio

The work to date on the eradication of polio from the South-East Asia Region is the culmination of a long standing partnership between WHO and donors such as Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USAID.

For more information on WHO South-East Asia Regional Office’s work on Polio, visit the immunization section.

"Keeping the polio virus at bay".