Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Meeting of African Health Ministers

Geneva, Switzerland
13 January 2005

Honourable Ministers,

One year ago, we signed a pledge to end polio. Since then, you have turned commitment into concrete action on an extraordinary scale. Globally, polio is closer to defeat than ever before. Asia has halved its cases and cornered the virus geographically. Since polio immunization campaigns were resumed in Kano, Nigeria, on 31 July last year, Africa has started to put the brakes on an explosion of cases.

Despite the progress, we were not able to meet our target of stopping poliovirus transmission by the end of 2004. We are now working on achieving it by the end of this year. The risk of failure is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. The poliovirus has spread to twelve previously polio-free countries, including Saudi Arabia.

Côte d’Ivoire has had no polio immunization campaigns since November because of the security situation there. The epidemic in Sudan poses a serious risk of spreading polio to Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Niger and Nigeria continue to export the virus.

We face a decisive year. We have to interrupt wild poliovirus transmission in 2005, building on the accomplishments and commitment from 2004.

Today, I invite each of us to engage in a frank and constructive discussion on how we can and must move towards the end of polio. Each national government and international partner should take this opportunity to examine themselves and invite and help each other to do the same.

On behalf of all those who have invested so much in eradicating polio, and of all those who will saved from disability and death by it, I wish you every success.

Thank you.