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Polio, a highly infectious and sometimes deadly disease that has plagued the world since ancient times, is now at its lowest levels ever, and a global push for polio eradication by 2018 is underway. Since eradication efforts began in earnest 26 years ago (when cases numbered 350,000 annually), polio has been eliminated in more than 120 countries and remains endemic in only 3.
The Global effort to eradicate polio is spearheaded by Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The U.S. Government has provided about $2 billion of the $11 billion spent thus far on polio eradication. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has played a critical role, recognizing and raising the importance of mobile populations, cross-border coordination, communications, and the need for more women vaccinators. In fact, working with local community organizations, women’s groups and self-help groups, the messages have gone well beyond polio to address other immunizations, water and sanitation, breastfeeding, and handwashing. USAID’s support for facility-based and community-based disease surveillance provides the data and verification that the immunization efforts are working. Increasingly, this network of disease surveillance officers is also searching for cases of other vaccine preventable diseases and are at the front lines during any disease outbreak or natural disaster. USAID’s steady financial support and technical leadership has contributed to this success and laid the foundation for a lasting legacy.
USAID supports the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Endgame and Strategic Plan that aims to:
- Detect and interrupt all polio transmission
- Strengthen immunization systems and begin phased withdrawal of oral polio vaccines
- Contain the polio virus and certify interruption of transmission
- Plan polio’s legacy
USAID has been part of an unprecedented public-private partnership, led by host governments, with the ultimate goal of a Polio-Free World. By working collaboratively and harnessing the energy of more than 20 million volunteers to bring life-giving vaccines to the most remote corners of the world, more than 10 million children today are walking, who in the past would have been permanently paralyzed.
Complacency is the greatest risk to polio eradication. It is critical for all countries to sustain high population immunity, maintain certification-level surveillance, develop robust outbreak and response plans, and continue to build trust in immunizations. Efforts need to continue to reach mobile and nomadic populations and any other pockets of unvaccinated children. Suspected polio cases need to be rapidly investigated. The approaches, strategies, and best practices that have led to reaching more children than any other public health initiative in history can be applied to other programs, including stronger childhood immunization programs in general.
With 4 of 6 WHO regions certified polio free and Africa approaching 1 year with no detection of wild virus, no polio type 2 since 1999, and no polio type 3 since 2012, the world has never been closer to stopping this devastating disease.
Read further information about polio at the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Last updated: August 03, 2015