Press Release WHO/68
8 October 1998
RENEWED COMMITMENT REQUIRED TO ACHIEVE POLIO ERADICATION, WHO SAYS
The World Health Organization (WHO) today stressed the urgent need for increased political and financial commitment to accelerate the worldwide campaign to eradicate polio. In 1988 a global coalition consisting of WHO, its member states and many partner agencies agreed to work towards the eradication of polio by the year 2000.
"While dramatic progress has been achieved in the eradication of polio, the force of the worldwide initiative for eradication must be maintained. The eradication campaign may be running critically short of funding, and we ask donors and governments to go the extra mile with us and rid the world of polio and its tragic toll on death and disability," WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland said at a Regional WHO meeting in Beirut on 3 October.
It is estimated that an additional US$600-700 million will be needed until the end of the year 2000.
This summer two independent expert advisory groups to WHO, The Global Technical Consultative Group for Polio Eradication and the Scientific Advisory Group of Experts, concluded that "established eradication strategies, when fully implemented, will achieve eradication by the target date", which means by the end of the year 2000.
Both groups stressed that the single biggest obstacle to eradication was lack of funding.
The eradication initiative has effectively cornered poliovirus, with only two major areas of virus transmission remaining globally: the Indian subcontinent and Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1997 alone, 450 million children under five years of age received additional polio vaccine during National Immunization Days in more than 100 countries.
In a meeting with the International Congress of Paediatrics in August Dr. Brundtland said: "In 2010 we should be able to look back at the year 2000 and say that we reached the goal of eradicating polio. But we may also fail as the campaign risks running critically short of money. That is not acceptable this is a combat we simply cannot afford to loose in the last stretch."
The continued commitment of national governments to maintain high routine immunization coverage, conduct additional yearly immunization days, and put into place effective surveillance to identify new cases of polio is a key component of success. While many countries have the systems required, other countries are lagging behind, especially where conflicts and political strife represent major challenges in achieving health care goals.
Since the campaign began 10 years ago, the incidence of polio has dropped by almost 90%, and the great majority of countries are already polio-free. WHO's major partners in this initiative are Rotary International, UNICEF, and the governments of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
For further information, journalists can contact Gregory Hartl, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (41 22) 791 44 58. Fax (41 22) 791 48 58. E-Mail: email@example.com
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