Burnet’s Ben Coghlan in a “women’s courtyard” promoting polio vaccination in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Imagine a world without polio. There is no cure for the crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease, but there are safe and effective vaccines.
On World Polio Day – 24 October – we are drawing attention to the efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative* whose goal is to create a polio-free world. To achieve this, requires widespread prevention of infection by immunising every child until transmission stops.
But there remain significant barriers to achieving success in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to Burnet Institute’s Deputy Director and a member of the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Professor Mike Toole AM.
“So far, this year, 80 percent of global polio cases have been reported in Pakistan, which is the last ‘sanctuary’ of the poliovirus. A ban on vaccination by the Pakistan Taliban has meant that 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan have been unvaccinated for the past three years,” Professor Toole said.
“A recent campaign by the Pakistan military against the militants led to 90 percent of the population leaving the area.
“On the one hand, this is an opportunity to vaccinate the children and build their immunity, but on the other hand, this has meant that they have been dispersed across Pakistan and into neighbouring Afghanistan, with new cases in provinces that had previously been polio-free.
“Contrasting this, Nigeria – one of the last three countries where polio has never been eliminated – has only had six cases this year and is on track to be polio-free by the end of 2014.”
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative reports that Pakistan has reached 206 cases of paralysis caused by wild poliovirus in 2014. This is the highest number of cases on record by October in Pakistan in any year.
Until poliovirus transmission is interrupted in these countries, all countries remain at risk of importation of polio, especially in the ‘poliovirus importation belt’ of countries from West Africa to the Horn of Africa.
Find out more about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
- The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).