New polio eradication plan launched
Sudhir Gupta, a member of the India PolioPlus Committee and past governor of District 3100, immunizes four-year-old Sivi Sen against polio at the Moradabad railway station in Uttar Pradesh. Photo by Allison Kwesell
The World Health Organization and UNICEF cohosted a meeting with Rotary International and other stakeholders in Geneva on 18 June to launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Strategic Plan 2010-12.
The new plan comes at a critical time for the GPEI. Key endemic countries are witnessing historic gains against the disease. Nowhere is progress more evident than in Nigeria, which has reported just three cases in 2010 as of 6 July compared with 333 cases for the same period in 2009. India has reported 22 cases compared with 107 cases.
Across Africa, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free countries reinfected in 2009 have stopped their outbreaks.
In May, the World Health Assembly welcomed the new plan while expressing deep concern about the substantial funding gap over the next three years. The shortfall is a serious risk to ending polio and highlights the need for Rotary to reach its goal of raising US$200 million.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan called on the international funding community to stand tall for polio eradication. “The next three years, and especially the next 12 months, are critical to the polio eradication initiative and, by extension, the entire international public health agenda.”
An essential element of the plan is the bivalent oral polio vaccine, which is being used effectively against wild poliovirus types 1 and 3 in all four endemic countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. (Type 2 poliovirus has been eradicated.)
The plan also focuses on known polio migration routes, which have made outbreaks of the disease largely predictable. Aggressive synchronized immunization campaigns are now being used to help prevent and stop outbreaks.
The partners of the GPEI are exploring every option to secure fresh funding and are managing existing cash flow to limit any threat to the eradication effort. The risk of not stopping polio in endemic countries was made clear when a large outbreak occurred in Tajikistan, caused by poliovirus that had spread from India in early 2010. The outbreak has paralyzed 334 children as of 29 June. Tajikistan had been polio-free since 1997.
“The complete eradication of polio is an absolute goal, and it requires absolute commitment from us all,” says UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake.
“Rotary believes the new strategic plan provides the blueprint to achieving the goal of polio eradication,” says Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar.
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