“Afghanistan is intensifying efforts to eradicate polio by the end of next year, but security remains a major challenge especially in the southern provinces where the virus is localized, says” Arshad Quddus, head of the WHO polio program in Afghanistan, IRIN reports. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan, according to the WHO, IRIN notes, adding that Afghan “[g]overnment data show that 85 percent of the population now live in polio-free areas, but the virus is still circulating in 13 districts, including the seven where  recent cases have been detected.” In addition to security issues, “low literacy rates, poor hygiene practices and low awareness of the benefits of vaccination” are hindering campaigns, according to IRIN (9/15).
Speaking at the 61st session of the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO) in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, on Thursday, African Regional Director of WHO Luis Sambo said “that 46 Africa member countries still had remarkable challenges to scale before meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” Nigeria’s The Nation reports.
“According to the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), continued transmission of polio is a ‘global health emergency,’ and plans to interrupt transmission by the end of 2012 are ‘at risk,'” the Lancet Infectious Diseases reports, adding, “With a US$590 million funding gap and weak political leadership in some countries, the engagement of communities to plan and implement local approaches is paramount.”
“The 36-member Nigerian Governors’ Forum has launched a new initiative to rid the country of polio,” VOA News reports.
PBS NewsHour reports on polio eradication efforts underway in India’s Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states, which “have been the source of all the polio viruses that have crippled children in India, â€¦ one of four countries in the world where polio is still endemic, though it appears it may be on the cusp of finally halting transmission,” according to the news service.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing approximately $65 million to Pakistan’s government to provide polio vaccination campaigns in the country, “one of the most difficult fronts against the disease as global health organizations risk missing their goal of stopping polio globally the end of 2012,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “If Pakistan achieves certain goals with the money, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will repay the loan to Japan, according to officials briefed on the plan,” according to the newspaper (Guth, 8/18).
In a New York Times essay, journalist Donald McNeil writes, “To a doctor, all epidemics are objectively different â€¦ But to the mortals they mow down, all epidemics are emotionally alike â€” an onslaught of fear, awe, repulsion, stigma, denial, rage and blame â€” and doctors would be foolish to forget that.”
With 63 cases of polio diagnosed in Pakistan this year, nearly double the number recorded in the same time period 2010, the U.N. “says that these findings suggest Pakistan could be the ‘last polio reservoir worldwide’ â€“ the country standing in the way of eliminating only the second global epidemic disease after smallpox,” the Atlantic Wire reports.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden, who currently is visiting India and who previously worked with the Indian government assisting in tuberculosis (TB) control, praised the country’s “progress in controlling tuberculosis and tobacco use” on Monday during a speech to health practitioners and policymakers, according to the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. Frieden also noted “India’s strides in the past decade on â€¦ polio control and HIV/AIDS prevention,” the blog reports.
Hundreds of parents “are defying threats of jail time by refusing polio vaccines for their children in a high-risk northern Nigerian state,” according to Muhammad Abdu Zango, Kano state coordinator of Journalists Against Polio, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports.