United Nations agencies and their partners today announced a new effort to eradicate polio and urged the international community to provide additional funds to reach this goal.
The Strategic Plan 2010-2012, launched by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, aims to build on success in key endemic countries, such as Nigeria, where the number of polio cases have dropped by more than 99 per cent – from 312 cases last year to three in 2010.
India’s two remaining endemic states have, for the first time ever, not reported any new cases in more than six months. Nigeria and India are among the four countries, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, where polio is still endemic.
In addition, 10 of the 15 previously polio-free African countries that were re-infected in 2009 have successfully stopped their outbreaks. They are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Kenya, Togo and Uganda.
Last month the World Health Assembly welcomed the new plan, which hinges on activities at the field level, while expressing deep concern about the $1.3 billion funding shortfall – out of a budget of $2.6 billion – over the next three years.
The shortfall is a serious risk to the eradication of polio, WHO said, noting that activities are already being cut back or postponed due to a lack of funds.
“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,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, calling on the international community to support the new effort.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), national governments, Rotary International, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.