Polio :: Polio consultation reaches broad consensus to complete polio eradication

Today, governments, donors and international agencies leading the drive to eradicate polio fully supported the planned final attack on the poliovirus.

Indigenous wild poliovirus survives in only parts of four countries ? Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan ? where transmission has never been stopped. Today’s high-level Consultation on polio eradication agreed to raise within 12 months – and then sustain for as long as needed – the levels of vaccination coverage and child immunity in the areas with endemic polio to levels that stopped the disease altogether in the polio-free parts of these countries. Ten other countries are currently fighting the tail-end of outbreaks caused by importations of poliovirus.

The Consultation outlined specific milestones in two areas where improvements would raise the coverage and immunity levels. The first is to ensure that vaccine reaches children by improving the quality of polio vaccination campaigns, strengthening health infrastructure, addressing security challenges, and by enhancing acceptance of vaccination through tailored social mobilization and community engagement strategies.

Second, the Consultation agreed that there was a collective responsibility to mobilize the resources needed to complete polio eradication, in particular by filling the funding gap of US$ 575 million for 2007-2008. Of this amount, US$ 60 million is urgently needed by April. Just today in its Parliament, India outlined its firm financing commitment, and other endemic countries have outlined specific steps to provide domestic resources. The international donor community will now need to rapidly fulfil its commitment to securing the necessary resources. The first step is for donors to take the case for polio eradication back to their capital cities and present it to major international development fora between March and May. Without a rapid injection of funding, polio eradication activities will have to be curtailed, threatening the global polio eradication effort.

The commitment of the four remaining polio-endemic countries remains strong and was re-affirmed by the presence at this Consultation of representatives from the offices of the Heads of Government. Together these countries vaccinate a total of 250 million children many times each year. The Consultation defined specific milestones to monitor whether the collective capacity of all polio eradication stakeholders is being fully harnessed to make concrete and rapid progress.

The Consultation, called for by Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General, was hosted by the World Health Organization, with top representation from the other spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative ? Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF ? together with representatives from the endemic countries’ ministries of finance and health, major donors, political organizations and independent technical experts. Of particular importance was the presence of special advisers to the heads of state of three of the four endemic countries.

The eradication effort, predicated on reaching every child multiple times with oral polio vaccine, has reduced the number of polio cases worldwide by over 99%. Of the 193 Member States of the WHO, 189 have stopped transmission of indigenous wild poliovirus.

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