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.
John Campbell, Ralph Bunche senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in his “Africa in Transition” blog that “[t]he Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to 70 for 2012,” with most of the cases occurring in the predominantly Muslim north. “Despite efforts by the Nigerian government and the international community, polio is far from being eradicated in Nigeria,” he states and discusses challenges to fighting the disease in the country (8/30).
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday spoke at a reception at the U.S. Embassy in India meant “to highlight the Call to Action initiative against child mortality,” Zee News reports (8/29). Rice “[l]aud[ed] India’s role for taking on the challenge as a co-convener of the ‘Child Survival Call to Action,’ a global initiative launched jointly by the governments of United States, India and Ethiopia in collaboration with UNICEF,” the Business Standard writes (8/28). According to her remarks, Rice said, “Thanks to advances in technology, knowledge and expansion of health programs, as well as the leadership of countries such as India, today it is possible to eliminate preventable child death. India’s success in nearly stopping the transmission of polio shows what can be achieved with a program of focused and well-coordinated international cooperation” (8/28).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, reflects on Angola’s success against polio, writing, “Angola marked a full year without a new case of polio” this month, an accomplishment that serves as “the latest evidence that we are extremely close to ending polio forever.” He continues, “Polio is a formidable foe and Angola is one of the world’s poorest nations with numerous health challenges to tackle, which makes Angola’s achievement especially noteworthy,” adding, “Like all 125 countries that have gotten rid of polio since 1988, Angola’s leaders and citizens also deserve the global resolve needed to ensure that no country ever has to go back and re-do the hard, expensive work that’s already been done to protect their children from polio” (8/27).
“It seems public health is the latest casualty of Pakistan’s fight against homegrown militants and extremist groups,” Huma Yusuf, a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, writes in this post in the New York Times’ “Latitude” blog, highlighting a recent ban on polio immunization campaigns by the Taliban. “After a period of retreat, the polio virus has recently been detected in sewage samples from several Karachi localities,” she notes, writing, “Today, 22,000 children may be at risk in Karachi, and as many as 250,000 in the tribal areas where Bahadur is based.” She continues, “The resurgence of polio in Karachi is especially worrying because the city is an incubator of disease.”
The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) on Monday released a report called “Eradicating Polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” According to the report summary, efforts to eradicate the virus globally “have proved largely successful, in part thanks to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched by the international community in 1988,” and “[t]he number of new cases has dropped in the past decade, even in countries where the virus has never been eradicated.” The summary adds, “Today, there are only three countries in the world where the polio virus remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan” (8/13).
“The global effort to eradicate polio received a SEK 1 million [about $150,000] boost today as Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dedicated the monetary award she accepted from the TÃ¤llberg Foundation to Rotary International — a humanitarian service organization that has made a polio-free world its top priority,” according to a Gates Foundation press release. “Rotary International has been an invaluable champion for bringing the world more than 99 percent of the way toward a polio-free world, and will continue to be in the final steps to success,” Gates said, according to the press release (8/6).
In a series of “News Focus” articles in Science, the magazine examines the global effort to eradicate polio. One article examines the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — a partnership of the WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, the CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — and recent reports on the program by an Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), “an oversight body” that provides feedback and guidance. A second and third article look at efforts to vaccinate children against polio in Pakistan, which “is the perfect case study for why it is so hard to eradicate poliovirus from its last few strongholds — and what it might take to pull it off.” The WHO’s Chris Maher “and others attribute the explosion of cases last year to a perfect storm of all the problems that are Pakistan: poverty and illiteracy; a health system in tatters; ethnic and sectarian violence; a government struggling to deal with corruption and dysfunction; huge population movements; and, especially since 9/11, rising extremism and anti-Western views — not to mention the natural attrition that accompanies any program that has dragged on for so long,” according to Science (Roberts, 8/3).
“Health efforts are close to wiping out polio, but two significant challenges remain: money and the operational logistics of getting the vaccine to people who need it,” CNN writes in an article examining “how far we’ve come with polio and what’s left to be done.” The news service provides statistics of polio infection globally and a history of polio in the U.S., and compares polio eradication efforts to those of other diseases. “The World Health Organization has an action plan for the next 18 months that could very well lead to eradication, says Oliver Rosenbauer, spokesman for polio efforts at the organization,” the news service writes and highlights a number of challenges moving forward (Landau, 7/30).
Though “a massive 24-year global effort to eradicate [polio] forever is now within striking distance of its goal, … there is still a very real danger that the entire campaign could come undone,” Jay Winsten, associate dean at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Emily Serazin, a principal in the Washington, D.C. office of the Boston Consulting Group, write in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. The campaign to eradicate the disease faces geopolitical challenges, “[b]ut the biggest danger faced by the campaign is a dramatic funding shortfall of $945 million — almost half the amount originally budgeted for 2012-13,” they write. “The challenges faced by the polio campaign are emblematic of problems that affect worldwide efforts to conquer vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough,” Winsten and Serazin state and note that a Global Vaccine Action Plan was recently compiled by a huge collaborative effort and endorsed by the World Health Assembly. “With sufficient funding and political will, the massive health and economic benefits of vaccines are indeed attainable,” they conclude (7/24).