World Polio Day

The Last Percent

In Niger, a child is immunized against polio. Synchronised, multi-country campaigns held in west Africa this week aim to vaccinate more than 36 million children. M Bachir Chaibou/WHO Niger

 World Polio Day originally brought people together to remember the birth of a man who led the first team to develop a vaccine against polio, Dr. Jonas Salk. It was the development of this vaccine, and its successor oral polio vaccine, that enabled the world to embark on an ambitious journey – the eradication of polio. Every year on 24 October, people around the world shine a spotlight on the importance of global eradication.

Now World Polio Day is an opportunity for the polio eradication community to renew its promise to future generations. Now that 99% of the work is done, and most children born today live free of the threat of polio, it is more important than ever that the entire world remains committed to the disease’s eradication.

On this World Polio Day, we think of the 467 people who have been paralyzed by polio this year, who would be walking today if polio had been eradicated. We think of the family in China mourning their son who contracted polio and died last month.  This week, 80 million children are being vaccinated in Africa and Asia in an effort to make sure that their families do not suffer the same fate.

Last week, the management of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and key donors decided to make creative and fundamental changes in management, culture and accountability to guarantee that these children – and those in the coming months – are reached with vaccine.

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