World Polio Day
There’s a lot to celebrate this World Polio Day, 24 October
In all but three countries of the world, governments supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have stopped transmission of this crippling virus. This year, fewer children (171) have been paralyzed by polio, in fewer parts of the world than ever before.
Since the launch of the GPEI’s Emergency Action Plan in May 2010, India – long thought to be the hardest place from which to eradicate polio – has stopped polio transmission. Polio now survives among the most marginalized communities of just three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Polio eradication is at a pivotal point, and the three countries and the partners supporting them are all in emergency mode. A massive surge of human resources – over 4000 people – has been deployed to assist the countries, but local ownership is at the heart of these efforts:
• Traditional leaders take part in the selection of vaccinators in Nigeria
• ‘Permanent’ polio vaccination teams operate in insecure parts of Afghanistan to ensure children can be vaccinated regardless of who controls the area
• The overall administration at a district-level in Pakistan – not the health sector alone – is accountable for reaching every child in the area with vaccine
• A single focal point, a polio ‘tsar’, reports on the country’s progress to the head of state in all three countries.
In 2012, 398 million children have been vaccinated against polio. This week alone, nearly 20 million children are being vaccinated, in eight countries in Africa where children still face a high risk of polio paralysis.
Failure to eradicate polio would lead eventually to at least 200,000 children paralyzed worldwide every year, and as recent outbreaks in polio-free areas such as Tajikistan and China have shown, increasingly, adults have also been paralyzed, and killed. Only eradication will ensure a polio-free world. And prove that every child, everywhere, can be reached with life-saving vaccines.