International Community Must Ensure Political Will, Financial Support Necessary To Eradicate Polio

“Last month, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened a group of global leaders, including [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair] Bill Gates and heads of state of polio-affected countries, to renew the commitment to eliminate polio,” William Keenan, executive director of the International Pediatric Association, and Robert Block, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, note in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog. “This show of solidarity reminds us that the fight is not finished,” they write, and continue, “Armed with effective vaccines, pediatricians, partner organizations and front-line workers around the globe have eliminated 99 percent of all new polio cases.” They state, “We can’t afford to lose sight of this remaining one percent of polio cases.”

“With only three countries where transmission has never been stopped — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — polio is facing defeat,” Keenan and Block write, adding, “The effort has major implications for children’s health and mortality: it’s proof positive that critical health services can safeguard children living in even the hardest-to-reach places.” However, they note “funding gaps have led to cancelled and scaled-back vaccination campaigns in 24 countries, leaving children vulnerable and threatening progress.” Noting the implementation of the Polio Global Emergency Action Plan, which aims to “improve vaccination campaign quality, protect every last child and ensure accountability,” they conclude, “We must all ensure that the solidarity demonstrated at the U.N. leads to the political will and financial support needed to put this plan into action” (10/22).