“India was taken off a list of polio endemic countries by the World Health Organization on Saturday, marking a massive victory for health workers battling the crippling disease” and “leav[ing] just three countries with endemic polio — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” Agence France-Presse reports (2/26). “Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the WHO removed India from the list after the country passed one year without registering any new cases,” the Associated Press/CBS News writes, adding, “India must pass another two years without new cases to be declared polio-free” (2/27).
VOA News reports on global efforts to eradicate polio, writing, “Experts say with India now polio-free and the total number of cases at the lowest level ever, this is an opportunity to change history and eradicate the disease entirely.” “The oral polio vaccine has cut the number of polio cases worldwide by 99 percent since 1988,” but, “[f]or the past 10 years, … eliminating that last percent has remained a challenge,” the news service continues. “The three countries where polio is still endemic — Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — are conducting aggressive immunization campaigns to vaccinate more children against the disease,” VOA notes.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday said Nigeria was not on track in the effort to eradicate wild polio virus before the end of December this year,” Leadership/AllAfrica.com reports. Speaking at the 24th Expert Review Committee (ERC) Meeting on Polio Eradication in Abuja, Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration, said Nigeria had the tools and capacity to turn back the increasing number of polio cases that pose a “real and growing danger to international public health,” the news service notes. Aylward “recommended eight major steps for polio eradication for the country, including the implementation of the new house-based micro planning and monitoring method,” refresher training for all personnel to emphasize the emergency status declared by the WHO, and the identification and immunization of missed children and those in insecure areas, among others, according to the news service. ERC Chair Tomori Oyewale “called on Nigerians to change their attitude to polio eradication to ensure the success of the fight against the virus,” the news service writes (9/11).
Pakistan Official Says Progress Made In Vaccinating Thousands Of Children Against Polio In Tribal Area
“Pakistan Tuesday claimed progress in vaccinating thousands of children against polio in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan which had been inaccessible due to unrest for about three years,” Agence France-Presse reports. “‘Our target was to vaccinate up to 25,000 children in Bara and some 32,000 children in Tirah valley in Khyber and 70 percent success has been achieved,’ top social welfare officer for tribal areas Aftab Durrani told AFP,” the news service writes.
In a post on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates writes about traveling to New York this week to deliver a speech to the U.N. on polio eradication, one of the top five global health priorities as described by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “New polio cases are the lowest they’ve ever been and there are currently just three countries, down from 125 in 1988, where polio is still endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan,” Gates notes. He adds, “[T]he world is coming together with the financial resources, the political commitment, and the innovation necessary to do something absolutely extraordinary, to protect every child everywhere from this preventable disease” (9/25).
Political leaders, donor representatives, and medical experts on Thursday met on the sidelines of the 67th U.N. General Assembly session “to celebrate [polio eradication] efforts that have already reduced the incidence of the crippling and potentially fatal disease by 99 percent around the globe,” the U.N. News Centre reports (9/27). “Saying a decisive moment has arrived in the quest to eradicate polio, world leaders vowed … to embrace a new approach that includes long-term funding commitments, greater accountability and a specific focus on the three countries where the crippling disease remains endemic,” the Globe and Mail writes (Picard, 9/27). “[E]verything hinges on stopping polio in a few districts in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said during an address at the event, the U.N. News Centre adds (9/27). Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “who is helping spearhead a global campaign to eradicate polio, said Thursday he hopes that by 2015 no child in the world will be paralyzed by the disease and by 2018 polio will be wiped out,” the Associated Press writes (Lederer, 9/27).
“Mobile health teams in Bangladesh are conducting ‘child-to-child’ searches to reach the remaining half million children not vaccinated during a nationwide polio immunization campaign launched on 7 January,” IRIN reports. With a goal of vaccinating 22 million children, health workers are heading into hard-to-reach and high-risk areas to vaccinate the remaining 560,791 children, the news service writes. “Since a polio outbreak in 2006 of an imported viral strain, the government has not reported any infections, pledging annual polio vaccinations until [neighboring] India is declared polio-free,” IRIN notes, adding the next round of polio vaccinations in Bangladesh is scheduled for February 11 (1/11).
India Marking Health Achievement In Polio-Free Year But Cautious Optimism Remains Among Some Experts
“On Friday, India marks a huge public health milestone — a year since a case of polio was found in the country — a critical step in being declared polio-free and an achievement that many experts long argued was impossible,” the Globe and Mail reports (Nolen, 1/11). “The achievement gives a major morale boost to health advocates and donors who had begun to lose hope of ever defeating the stubborn disease that the world had promised to eradicate by 2000,” the Associated Press/Seattle Post-Intelligencer writes (Nessman, 1/12).
In part one of a two-part blog post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” USAID Worldwide Polio Eradication Coordinator Ellyn Ogden reports on the “hard work and dedication of the Indian government at the national, state, district, block and panchaiyat levels” that was required for the country to have a year free of polio. “Over two million health workers, mobilizers, and volunteers have contributed to this success and deserve to be seen as heroes in their communities,” she writes (1/20). In part two of the post, Ogden recaps polio vaccination efforts and challenges, discusses the last recorded case of polio, and writes that going forward, “Guarded optimism prevails” as the country “is still at risk of importations from countries that have not yet stopped polio transmission” (1/23).
If India does not record a new polio case through January 13, “produc[ing] 12 straight months of polio-free surveillance data, it will be removed from the list of countries where polio is considered endemic, leaving only the other three,” Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, Scientific American reports (Branswell, 1/9). “Asking other countries to draw inspiration from India in their polio eradication drive, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said the country not reporting a single polio case over the last year is a major milestone in the global health sector,” the Economic Times writes (1/10).