New York, 13 May 2002 - The first ever photographic exhibition depicting the epic story behind the largest public health initiative in history - the bid to eradicate polio globally by 2005 - opens in New York on 16 May. The images, captured by world acclaimed Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado tell the polio eradication story in a way that it has never been told before - from depicting the ravages of the disease on children to the heroic efforts to deliver vaccine in conflict-ridden countries.
To document the campaign, UNICEF Special Representative Salgado worked with the four Global Polio Eradication Initiative lead agencies: the WHO (World Health Organisation), Rotary International, CDC (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and UNICEF (the United Nations Children's Fund).
'The End of Polio' opens at a critical stage in the polio eradication initiative when the goal of a polio-free world is threatened mainly by a $275 million funding gap.
The campaign has made tremendous progress. In 1988, when the initiative was launched, the disease paralysed some 350,000 children annually and 125 countries were endemic. Now, there are just 10 polio-endemic countries, and there were only 480 cases in 2001.
But the polio story is not yet complete. With a target of stopping transmission globally by the end of 2002, the global campaign must urgently overcome a series of challenges. Reaching all children - especially those isolated by conflict - sustaining political commitment at all levels, and overcoming the funding gap are chief among these.
On the eve of the exhibition, Salgado is making a direct appeal to the world to secure the end of polio - a disease which will be defeated only when every child on earth is vaccinated against it. "Polio still exists," he says, "We need to build a strong movement, so that everyone, all the planet together, can finish with it."
This appeal will reach a global audience via a new website www.endofpolio.org. Launching on 14 May, the site draws extensively on Salgado's images. While telling the polio story, it also highlights the key role public support plays in helping to achieve the global eradication of polio, and offers an opportunity to donate to the campaign.
In 2001 Sebastião Salgado journeyed to the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Pakistan, Somalia and south Sudan to witness and document efforts to eradicate polio from some of the most challenging and remote places on earth. 'The End of Polio' breaks with traditional photography exhibition formats in that Salgado's imagery goes beyond promoting public awareness. It points to a solution and encourages participation by demonstrating that the eradication of polio is within grasp.
"I hope that the person who visits my exhibitions, and the person who comes out, is not quite the same," says Salgado. "I believe that the average person can help a lot, by participating, by being truly concerned about what is going on in the world."
Among the distinguished personalities who have already confirmed to join Sebastião Salgado at the press preview is renowned American actor and UNICEF Special Representative Mia Farrow. A survivor of polio, Ms. Farrow is a strong supporter of the global campaign.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative
Polio is on course to be the second disease, after smallpox, to be eradicated by a concerted global campaign. By 2005, an estimated five million children will have been saved from paralysis because of the campaign's efforts.
Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system, and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. Polio mainly affects children under five years of age. There is no cure; it can only be prevented. Four doses of oral polio vaccine can protect a child for life.
Aperture has donated the use of its Burden Gallery on 20 East 23rd Street New York for the exhibition, which is produced and curated by PixelPress. The US Fund for UNICEF and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) have provided additional support.
For further information and to confirm attendance at the press preview contact:
Ambreen Qureshi at PixelPress, (212) 929-2160 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jo Bailey, Communication Officer at UNICEF (212) 326 7566 or email@example.com
For further information about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative contact:
Christine McNab, WHO, Geneva: + 41 79 254 6815 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Vivian Fiore, Rotary International, Evanston, IL (847) 866 3234 or email@example.com
Steve Stewart, CDC, Atlanta, (404) 639 8327 or firstname.lastname@example.org