The global polio eradication initiative
In 1988, polio paralysed nearly 1000 children every day worldwide. The world embarked that year on a programme to eradicate the poliovirus, which cripples permanently. By 2000, fewer than a thousand children had been paralysed in the entire year. Today, 18 years after its inception, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has reduced cases of polio by 99% and spared 5 million children from paralysis.
The G8 countries have contributed over half the US$ 4 billion spent to date. The G8 first placed polio eradication on its agenda during its Summit in Kananaskis, Canada, in 2002 and has renewed its commitment to eradication at every Summit since then. G8 countries work as a group to not only raise financial contributions but also to advocate with others to support eradication. If and when polio is eradicated, it will be only the second disease that humans have stamped out after smallpox.
The opportunities / the solutions
- Poliovirus in smallest area ever: only 4 countries remain that have never stopped polio before. The poliovirus is restricted to a handful of areas in these countries (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan). With speedy response activities, 21 previously polio-free countries that were re-infected in 2003–2005 have all either stopped their outbreaks or are about to do so.
- International support is unparalleled: in both polio-affected and donor countries, support for eradication has led to levels of sustained political and financial support that are without parallel. Last year in its Gleneagles summit, the G8 pledged to "support the Polio Eradication Initiative for 2006–2008 through continuing or increasing our own contributions...and mobilizing the support of others."
- Established common G8 goal: polio eradication is one of the G8 objectives that enjoys unmatched consensus across the countries and demonstrates the progress that can be made towards a common goal when the group works in cooperation.
- Polio cannot be cured, but it can be prevented by a vaccine that is easily administered. Eradication requires reaching children in the few areas where the virus still circulates and vaccinating all children under the age of 5.
- If not eradicated, polio would again become a global disease. In the next 40 years, over 10 million children would be paralysed, representing not only a tremendous loss of economic potential for lower-income countries but a clear threat to the health of children everywhere.
- In order to make a success of the eradication effort, the G8 countries must honour their commitments of both financial and political support. Canada, Germany, UK and the USA and are acting on their pledges; the other G8 countries should take the opportunity to do the same.
- Advocacy from G8 leaders with the four remaining polio-endemic countries is as critical as the financial support to ensure completion of eradication.
In order to carry out essential eradication activities, US$ 85 million is required urgently for the second half of 2006 and US$ 400 million for 2007–2008. The 2006–2008 budget is US$ 1.226 billion.
WHO is the lead technical partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which includes Rotary International, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as governments, private sector enterprise and development banks. As such, the Organization:
- provides the overall technical direction and strategic planning for the management and coordination of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and operational support to ministries of health;
- leads the surveillance network, including the laboratory network, coordinates operational and basic science research and leads the resource mobilization, donor coordination, advocacy and communication of information regarding eradication.