• World Polio Day: Joining forces to fight a crippling disease

World Polio Day: Joining forces to fight a crippling disease

18 October 2012

In the West, polio is regarded as a thing of the past.  In Afghanistan, it’s still a palpable threat.

Afghanistan is one of only three countries where this incurable disease, which can paralyse or kill within hours of contraction, is still endemic.   

The Global Poverty Project is using this year’s World Polio Day ( 24 October) to step up its campaign to get the disease wiped out once and for all. 

On 22 October, it will bring together British Parliamentarians, Ambassadors and representatives of the UN’s World Health Organisation in a special event to build support for the fight against polio.

The agency points out that the disease, which is highly infectious and primarily affects children under the age of five, can be prevented by immunisation.  Since 1988, it says, concerted international vaccination campaigns have reduced global polio cases by 99 per cent.

But it adds that “Progress towards eradication is at risk.  The critical work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is facing an almost $1 billion funding gap over the next two years, meaning that it is having to scale back and stop vital vaccination programmes for children”.

To sign The Global Poverty Project’s petition urging world leaders to help close the funding gap, click here  

Polio and Afghanistan

Following years of successful vaccination campaigns, around 84 per cent of Afghanistan is now polio-free.  Last year there were 80 cases of polio in the country.  There have been a further 21 so far this year.  The disease is most common in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, where the World Health Organisation says insecurity and conflict make it difficult to access and vaccinate children.

However, The Global Poverty Project says that in 2011 cases also emerged in northern, central and eastern parts of the country, apparently spread by travellers or refugees from endemic areas in Pakistan.

Pakistan and Nigeria are the only other countries where polio remains endemic.

(Statistics from The Global Poverty Project)