21 January 2013 – The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), set up to independently verify progress towards the achievement of a polio-free world, urged that the goal of polio eradication must ‘absolutely be seen through to completion’.
Meeting by teleconference on 18 January 2013, the Board concluded that although the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) missed its end-2012 milestone of stopping all wild poliovirus transmission globally, the programme had brought the world to the brink of eradicating polio. “Now more than ever, the world must be absolute in its resolve to eradicate polio,” the Board said in a statement. “If the right things are done and commitment remains high, it will happen.” The Board in particular noted the strong resolve by the people and Government of Pakistan in the face of the horrific and deadly attacks on health workers last month, who have made clear that eradicating polio remains their urgent goal. “Our hearts are with the families of those who were killed. The best tribute to their memory is for their work to be finished – for polio to be eradicated from Pakistan,” the statement read.
At the same time, however, the Board cautioned that the GPEI needed ‘unwavering global support’ in these final stages of its mission. “Each country, and each of its partners, is signing up to deliver something that is difficult, but of historic importance and absolutely feasible,” it said.
The Board commended progress in developing the 2013-2018 Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, and in particular the consultative process the GPEI has undertaken in its development. But the Board cautioned that development of this Plan cannot be allowed to divert attention from the ground. “The Plan’s title mentions 2018. This must not unintentionally create a mindset that the poliovirus will be allowed to kill and paralyse for five more years. It is 2013 that matters the most. Stopping transmission is urgent – progress must be seen in weeks and months, not months and years,” the Board concluded.