Polio kicked out of Europe: European Region to retain polio-free status, but constant vigilance is needed
25 August 2011 — The WHO European Region retains its polio-free status. In 2010, four countries – Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan – reported 475 laboratory-confirmed cases of wild poliovirus type 1, with 30 deaths. This week, an independent expert assessment noted that wild poliovirus transmission has been interrupted and confirmed the of the sustainability of the polio-free status of the Region.
Juba, southern Sudan, 22 February – The first round of the 2011 Polio National Immunization Days in Southern Sudan begins this week and is expected to reach an estimated 3.1 million children. Thousands of vaccination teams will spread across Southern Sudan – a region the size of Eastern Europe – and administer two drops of the polio vaccine to all children under the age of five.
Norah Abdelnabi, 24, couldn’t hide her joy when her two-year-old son, Steven Kulang received the ‘two drop’ vaccine for the first time.
Kulang was born at home in the slums of Khartoum city in Northern Sudan where his family had lived after being displaced by the war in the south which ended in 2005. Two months after he was born, his parents decided to return to the South.
“I have always been afraid that my son could be attacked by polio because he was not vaccinated but today my fear is relieved. I have seen people crippled for life by polio,” said an emotional Ms. Abdelnabi.
More than 180,000 Southern Sudanese are streaming back from the north of the country following a recent referendum which is expected to split Sudan and lead to the formation of a southern independent country this July when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005 ending two decades of a North-South war comes to an end.
The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) noted this weekend that the majority of polio cases in 2010 were in OIC member states and expressed concern over the slow progress in eradication efforts in some of these countries.
Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu urged leaders of polio-affected countries to intervene to ensure success in polio eradication efforts, and also appealed to donor countries to provide financial contributions to help close the funding gap for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Secretary General noted that the OIC will step up its advocacy efforts and mobilize high-level political support to help complete polio eradication.
The OIC Secretary General made these remarks at the opening of the meeting for the preparation of a Strategic Health Program of Action of the OIC Member States for 2012-2022. This Strategic Health Program of Action will be presented for adoption to the Third Islamic Conference of Health Ministers in Astana, Kazakhstan in September 2011.
“End Polio Now” message beamed on to monuments worldwide
Iconic landmarks around the world were illuminated with the “End Polio Now” message the week of 23 February in honour of Rotary’s 105th anniversary. Landmarks lit up included:
- the Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt
- the Taipei Arena in Taiwan
- the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain
- the Old Port Captain’s Office on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
- the Obelisk of Buenos Aires, Argentina
- the Royal Palace at Caserta in Italy.
As the world closes in on polio, Rotary is in the midst of a US$ 200 million fundraising campaign to finally eradicate the disease.