Polio eradication: An urgent race to the finish line

A boy receives polio vaccination. An emergency action plan to eradicate polio will ramp up vaccination activities in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Photo by: André Luiz D. Takahashi / ASCOM / CC BY

The World Health Assembly will weigh this week a resolution declaring full polio eradication as “a programmatic emergency for global public health.”

The move will buttress efforts by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to bring more donor attention to the epidemic.

Compared with the same period last year, the number of polio cases so far in 2012 has dropped from 166 to 60. But transmission continues in many endemic countries, including in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, prompting GPEI, a partnership between governments, the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationRotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, to launch May 24 an emergency action plan.

The plan requires nearly $1 billion to be fully realized. The alliance said it had been forced to cancel or scale back vaccination activities in 24 high-risk countries because of funding shortages.

The plan will ramp up vaccination activities in worst-hit areas of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan to levels required to end polio transmission. It calls for an increase in technical assistance to national and partner agency teams, including in the areas of communication and social mobilization, field monitoring and surveillance, and operations management.

Vaccinating in Pakistan, however, may prove to be problematic. A fake immunization program as part of an attempt to locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year has elicited distrust toward public health workers, with parents in some parts of the country refusing to have their children vaccinated against any disease.

Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.