“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).
The PBS NewsHour examines polio eradication efforts in India, which has gone an entire year without reporting a polio case. “For India, the challenge is to remain vigilant and polio free for two more years to officially fall off the list of endemic countries,” according to the news service (De Sam Lazaro, 2/20). “The success in India has been achieved through a partnership between the Indian government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary, UNICEF and with major contributions from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” BBC News reports in an analysis of India’s success. “The global effort to eradicate polio is the biggest public health initiative in history. It has cost billions and has already stopped a huge amount of disability and many deaths,” but the disease remains endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the news service notes (Walsh, 2/19).
In this video report, PBS NewsHour’s “The Rundown” examines curable and preventable diseases such as measles and river blindness that countries are focusing more effort on fighting. Mark Eberhardt, a neglected tropical diseases expert at the CDC, and Stephen Cochi, a measles and polio expert from the CDC, “describe the diseases and why they still need attention.” “‘They are often ignored,’ [Eberhardt] told the NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan. ‘There was often thought to be very little that could be done for them which has led to neglect from the scientific community and even the local population,'” the news blog notes (Rogo, 2/20).
Indian Authorities Vaccinate Children Crossing India-Pakistan Border; Distrust Of Polio Vaccines Grows In Pakistan
After going a year without recording a polio case, Indian health officials have begun vaccinating young children who cross the border to or from Pakistan at the Munabao railway station in Rajasthan state, BBC News reports. “The drive was launched after more than 175 cases of polio were reported in Pakistan, officials said,” the news agency writes (2/16).
This report — titled “The Race to Eradication,” published on Friday by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), and written by Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program, and Farha Tahir, a program coordinator and research associate in the program — examines efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria, a country that “remains one of the most entrenched reservoirs of poliovirus in the world,” according to the report summary. CSIS writes on its website, “The Nigerian experience has underscored the complexity of the eradication endeavor and vividly demonstrates the fragility and reversibility of gains made to date” (2/10).
Pakistan and Afghanistan, “the world’s two worst polio-affected countries,” have “decided to form a joint block under the World Health Organization to eradicate the infectious disease — which causes motor paralysis and the atrophy of skeletal muscles, often resulting in permanent physical disability or deformity — by December 2012,” Inter Press Service reports. “The decision was made last year by the Technical Advisory Board (TAG), which is responsible for developing new strategies to wipe out the disease globally,” the news service notes.
“The key to India’s success” in going a full year without recording a case of polio “was to take ownership of the problem and the solution, allowing for locals to learn from the expertise of the international community while not becoming dependent” on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and international donors, William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in The Diplomat’s “India Decade.”
In this video report, Al Jazeera examines polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, writing, “[I]n an unusual effort to eliminate the disease, health workers are stopping vehicles at a busy toll booth outside Islamabad to administer free polio vaccination drops to children under the age of five.” The video recounts a “promise” made by Pakistan’s prime minister last month to eliminate new polio infections in the country by the end of the year and provides commentary by Shahnaz Wazir Ali, assistant to the prime minister on social affairs, and Dennis King of UNICEF Pakistan about the target, current infection rates, and ongoing eradication efforts (Tyab, 2/6).
“Poor-quality emergency immunization campaigns and low routine polio immunization coverage are helping the polio virus to spread in Chad, with 132 cases reported in 2011 — five times the number in 2010,” IRIN reports. “More commitment is needed across the board, especially from local health authorities, to try to get immunizations right, say aid agencies,” the news service adds.
Gates Urges Governments, Wealthy Donors Not To Cut Aid To Poor Countries; Annual Letter Sets Foundation’s Priorities
In a speech to the European Parliament on Tuesday, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “told European lawmakers in Brussels not to cut aid to poor countries despite the economic and budgetary problems facing” European Union (E.U.) countries, Agence France-Presse reports. Gates “praised the [E.U.] whose support in health and development he said has been greater than that of the United States,” AFP notes (1/24). On Wednesday, Gates “will be at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, where he plans to exhort wealthy donors — especially governments — to keep funding a range of crucial projects in the developing world, from tuberculosis drugs and antimalaria bed nets to maternal care and vaccines,” the Wall Street Journal writes. Gates “plans to make his case by showcasing ideas, backed by his foundation, that have helped cost-effectively tackle problems in global health,” according to the newspaper (Naik, 1/25).