15 May 2000
ON TRACK FOR A WORLD CERTIFIED POLIO-FREE IN 2005
BUT INTENSIFIED EFFORTS NEEDED
Agencies leading the global effort to eradicate polio today called for intensified efforts and additional resources for the areas of Africa and the Indian sub-continent where there would be continued transmission of poliovirus at the end of the year 2000.
The World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said in a statement that although up to 20 countries were likely to still have poliovirus circulating at the end of the year 2000, the Polio Eradication Initiative is on track to certify the world polio-free in year 2005. More than 190 countries and territories will have interrupted poliovirus transmission by the end of the year 2000, they said. This announcement followed last week's meeting of the Global Technical Consultative Group on Poliomyelitis (TCG) which reviewed progress in the remaining 30 endemic countries.
On the opening day of the Fifty-third World Health Assembly (WHA), WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland informed the Organization's 191 Member States of the global status of the Initiative."The certification date for global eradication of polio is 2005 and we are on track to meet that target. But there is no room for complacency. Ironically, in the final phase, in order to mop up pockets of poliovirus, to reach every child and to ensure eradication, immunization efforts need to intensify," she said.
Dr Brundtland appealed to Member States to ensure high quality surveillance, National Immunization Days (NIDs) and house-to-house campaigns to reach every child in every country. She urged health ministers to advocate to their Heads of State a multi-sectoral approach based on collaboration among government sectors such as education, transport, communication and armed forces, and to personally monitor national progress and ensure that sufficient numbers of people are rapidly deployed to work on polio eradication.
Success in three regions puts the initiative on track for global certification in 2005: the Americas were certified polio-free in 1994; the Western Pacific Region, which includes China, is scheduled for certification in November 2000, and WHO's European Region is expected to be certified polio-free in 2002. The number of poliomyelitis cases has fallen by 95 percent since the initiative was launched in 1988.
However, the TCG pointed out geographical areas likely to have continued transmission at the end of year 2000, which need particular attention: four northern states in India; countries affected by conflict in sub-Saharan Africa; and large reservoirs of the virus, in particular, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Pakistan. Reasons for continued transmission of poliovirus were identified as:
Already, efforts are under way to intensify immunization activities with increased rounds of NIDs scheduled through end of this year. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement will step up efforts in the remaining polio-endemic countries.
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, said that Days of Tranquillity, when combatants have agreed to lay down arms in order to allow immunization campaigns to proceed, must be observed now in countries where armed conflicts are underway. "In the final drive to eradicate polio, the premium is on 100 percent coverage," Bellamy said. "This will not occur unless urgent steps are taken to ensure access to every child in every area that is hard to reach and in every country where armed conflict makes the simple, life-saving act of immunization impossible."
"Today we are at the forefront of victory in the fight to end polio," said Rotary International President Mr Carlo Ravizza. "As we enter the most difficult phase of the eradication campaign, Rotary remains steadfast in its commitment to a polio-free world by 2005." By that date, Rotary will have contributed US $500 million to polio eradication.Rotarians world-wide volunteer their time every month to assist with immunization campaigns in countries throughout Africa and South Asia.
"Our experience demonstrates that polio eradication is technically feasible, we have the right vaccine and the right strategies to rid the world of this terrible crippling disease,"said Dr Jeffrey Koplan, Director of CDC. "The key to success will be reaching every child during NIDs and mop-ups," he stated.
The Polio Eradication Initiative, launched in 1988, is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, CDC and UNICEF. The coalition is made up of national governments; private foundations (e.g. United Nations Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); development banks (e.g. World Bank); donor governments (e.g. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States of America), and corporate partners (e.g. Aventis Pasteur, De Beers).
For further information, journalists can contact Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, Geneva; Telephone (+41 22) 791 4458. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. Mr Hartl can be reached from 15-20 May at Tel. +41 22 917 6821 or +41 22 917 6892; Mobile: 079/203 6715; Fax: +41 22 791 4858; Email:email@example.com; Mr Mohammad Jalloh, UNICEF, New York. Telephone: +1 (212) 326 7516. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Ms Liz Borre, Rotary International, Evanston, Illinois, USA Telephone +1 (847) 866 3180. Email: email@example.com; Public Information Office, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia. Telephone: +1 (404) 639 8252All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page: http://www.who.int