Global Polio Eradication
Country by country, polio is being eliminated, often amid intense political turmoil. The Democratic Republic of Congo adopted the “days of tranquility” method to vaccinate more than four million children, and within 18 months of the start of the campaign, transmission of polio was successfully halted. Once thought to be the greatest challenge to global polio eradication, India has not reported a single case of polio in more than two years. These successes give me hope.
Today endemic polio remains in only three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Other countries have reported imported cases, showing how easily polio can spread if left unchecked. The final obstacles to global polio eradication may be the toughest we have ever faced. On Friday, February 8, 2013, armed gunmen attacked a vaccine clinic in northern Nigeria. Nine health workers were reportedly killed in this incident, and others were injured. In recent months various coordinated attacks have occurred in Pakistan, which have left at least 16 health workers dead.
Yet I know that the global health community and all of those who continue to combat this disease—from the WHO to local health workers— will not falter and will not give up their efforts to eradicate polio. The legacies of Albert B. Sabin and Jonas E. Salk teach us that success will rely on worldwide collaboration and some unlikely allies.
Throughout this issue, you will learn about the trials and triumphs that have led us to where we stand today. We are on the brink of global polio eradication, and I am confident we will see this disease wiped off the planet by the end of this decade. We cannot let polio beat us, not when we are on the verge of eradicating a disease for only the second time in human history.