Eradicating Polio


We are closer than ever to ending polio. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio in the world and in 2014, only 359. Never before in the history of polio have there been so few children in so few countries with the crippling virus, but obstacles remain on the road to zero cases.

“There is no question that progress to end polio is real and tangible with just two countries in the world where the polio virus is still persistent: Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Peter Crowley, head of Polio at UNICEF. “But – and it’s a big but – until all children everywhere are consistently and routinely immunized against polio, the threat is there. We cannot let down our guard; we have to keep going until there is not a single child unvaccinated anywhere.”

In 1988 UNICEF joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and committed to ensure oral polio vaccine would be made available for and reach every child to rid the world of this devastating virus which at the time was paralyzing thousands of children every day.

The eradication effort was founded on the idea that polio, once the leading cause of disability, can be prevented through a cost-effective, easily administered vaccine that is one of the miracles of modern medicine. That polio continues to paralyse even a single child, even in the most insecure and poverty-stricken areas of the world, is unconscionable. It is our collective responsibility to address this inequity.

Today, thanks to the global effort for polio eradication, all but just two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) have eliminated polio within their borders. UNICEF is working with governments, partners and donors to make that number zero through the GPEI Strategic Plan.

Within the GPEI, UNICEF is leading in vaccine supply and social mobilization, reaching 500 millions of children with polio vaccines multiple times every year in more than 70 countries. UNICEF has played a critical role using its global presence and equity focus to drive for excellence.

With consistent progress towards achieving the GPEI’s strategic plan to eradicate polio by 2019 the world has never been closer to the once-in-a-generation opportunity of eradicating polio for good.

Watch a video about Africa’s amazing achievement in the work to end polio

About World Polio Day

World Polio Day was established by UNICEF partner Rotary International to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk who led the first team to develop a vaccine against poliomyelitis. Rotary typically leads extensive commemorative events during the entire week leading up to 24 October. This year the joint Rotary-UNICEF WPD event will take place in New York on October 23, 2015 and will be livestreamed online and recorded as well.

The World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Poverty Project and UN Foundation are the other main institutional supporters of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and will all also be engaging in World Polio Day (and Week) activities.

With renewed energy and focus, health experts from UNICEF, its partner organizations and governments are working against the clock to stop transmission in the remaining countries in order to rid the world of polio.




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