UN officials hail contributions to anti-polio drive, but urge more action

UN officials hail contributions to anti-polio drive, but urge more action

United Nations officials today hailed a major private-sector donation to the global drive to eradicate polio, but cautioned that more remains to be done to protect children from the debilitating disease.

Speaking at an event in New York marking the donation of 30 million doses of polio vaccine by the manufacturer Aventis Pasteur, the Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, pointed out that in 1988 1,000 children were paralyzed daily due to polio, but now fewer than 1,000 cases were recorded annually.

"The number is fewer, but too many children, who are some of the most disadvantaged, living in the most difficult conditions, in the poorest areas on earth still become paralyzed due to lack of adequate immunization," she said.

The Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, said that while the coalition built around polio eradication had been astounding, the challenge of reaching every child remains. She lauded Aventis Pasteur for its generosity, saying such contributions would make it possible to save lives and eradicate polio.

The Chief Executive Officer of Aventis Pasteur, David Williams, said his company was committed to the total eradication of polio, and would not stop until every child is immunized.

The vaccines donated by the company are expected to be used in a joint WHO/UNICEF campaign to immunize 60 million children against polio in 16 West African countries. Three million doses of the vaccine are already on their way to war-torn Liberia.