News / Asia

Global Polio Eradication Gets Major Boost

A child receives polio drops during the polio eradication program in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, February 19, 2012
A child receives polio drops during the polio eradication program in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, February 19, 2012

India recently celebrated a year of being polio-free. This is a remarkable achievement in a country that until recently was recognized as the world’s epicenter of polio. India’s momentous accomplishment is boosting prospects of polio becoming only the second disease after smallpox to have been eradicated. To ensure that it remains polio-free, India is holding a second round of National Immunization Days. Between February 19 and 25, vaccinators aim to immunize 172 million children against polio.

Staff Benda Bilili, a group of eight former street musicians from Kinshasa, Congo, are singing their signature song "Polio." Four of the musicians are disabled polio victims. They sing about the disease that drastically changed their lives. They urge parents to immunize their children. They travel throughout Africa on a mission to kick polio out of the continent.

Sona Bari is external relations officer for the World Health Organization’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative. She said, "A year has passed in which no child in India has been paralyzed by polio for the first time in history."

She says India has always been considered the toughest place on earth to stop the virus. But she notes it has achieved this milestone through political will, huge funding by Rotary International, and determination and persistence by the whole society.

"India and Indians had to be committed for a decade to month after month of vaccination activities," said Bari. "House to house to vaccinate children, keeping surveillance for polio very high and finding the most remote and inaccessible populations to ensure that every last child was reached."

Now that India has stopped the transmission of the wild poliovirus, only three polio endemic countries remain - Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Bruce Aylward is WHO assistant director for polio, emergencies and country collaboration. He said the "main challenge and problems are definitely right now going to be in northern Nigeria and Pakistan."

"Basically, the whole 20-year, 10-plus-billion-dollar effort now hinges on how well some district or local government area leaders are in vaccinating their kids, and probably what would amount to somewhere around 40 or 50 districts in the entire world. It really is now coming down to that with the progress recently made in India," said Aylward.

In 2003, religious and political leaders in Kano, Nigeria, claimed the polio vaccine was part of a Western conspiracy to sterilize girls. Immunizations stopped. As a consequence, hundreds of Nigerian children became disabled and the virus spread to neighboring countries.  

Bruce Aylward says both governments and health providers have learned from this experience. All are more vigilant, and great pains are being taken to make sure communities understand the importance of immunizing their children against this dreadful disease.

A November 2011 file photo shows a youth suffering from polio walking through a doorway at the Stand Proud compound in Kinshasa, Republic of Congo
A November 2011 file photo shows a youth suffering from polio walking through a doorway at the Stand Proud compound in Kinshasa, Republic of Congo

"It is a horrific, painful, devastating disease for the child, often for the family and then often even for the communities…Once polio is eliminated, we will also eliminate an incredible barrier to development, an incredible barrier to productivity for not just countries, but obviously the communities that are affected by polio and the children that are affected by polio," Aylward said.

When WHO launched its Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, 350,000 children were paralyzed or killed by this crippling disease every year. That number fell to 647 cases in 17 countries last year. WHO estimates about $10 billion has been spent on polio eradication so far. The United Nations agency says the world stands to benefit by $40 billion to $50 billion in net health savings 20 years after transmission is stopped.  

For United Nations Children's Fund Senior Health Specialist Brigitte Toure, the question is not one of if the job can get done, but when. "The big achievement of India in one year is to have demonstrated that it is possible to stop polio," she said. "You know that in the world, 99 percent of the countries have stopped polio…We are confident that we will stop this polio outbreak, but we have to work."

India’s achievement is converting skeptics into believers. The results are there for all to see. India shows polio can be eradicated if the political commitment and the money are there to bring this dreaded disease to an end.

Campaign supporters argue that too much has been invested in the polio eradication initiative to abandon it. They warn the consequences of failure are too terrible to contemplate. They say the world, once again, would be faced with hundreds of thousands of children becoming paralyzed or dying from this horrific, but preventable, disease.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid