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Progress

Huge achievements have been made in the global fight against polio since 1988, when the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate the disease. The number of polio cases worldwide has decreased by more than 99%, from 350 000 in 1988 to less than 2000 cases in 2009. The number of endemic countries has decreased from over 125 in 1988 to just four – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – by the end of 2006.

] School children, some with polio, in Sierra Leone
The world has a unique opportunity to end the crippling effects of polio forever
WHO/Jean-Marc Giboux

Since 1988, an estimated five million children who would otherwise have been paralysed are walking because of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Through polio eradication efforts, a significant investment has been made in strengthening health service delivery systems in many countries. Hundreds of thousands of health workers have been trained, millions of volunteers have been mobilized to support immunization campaigns, and cold-chain transport equipment has been refurbished.

In 2009, for example, 940 of the 998 immunization staff in the WHO African Region were funded by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Challenges

In spite of the huge progress made towards eradicating polio, tackling the last 1% of polio cases is proving to be difficult and expensive. Persistent pockets of transmission in the four remaining endemic countries are key challenges as they continue to export the poliovirus to polio-free areas and countries. In a few countries, sustained poliovirus transmission following importation for over 12 months has resulted in re-established transmission.

Conflict, political instability, hard-to-reach populations, and poor infrastructure continue to pose challenges to eradicating the disease. Each country offers a unique set of challenges which require local solutions.
Transporting polio vaccine by boat in India
Women transport polio vaccine by boat to remote villages in northern India

Increased funds from the international donor community and continued political commitment from the remaining polio-affected countries are essential to finish the job. As long as a single child remains infected, there is always the threat of resurgence, putting children everywhere at risk of contracting the disease.

Once eradication is achieved, the challenges will not stop. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative must manage the transition from achieving eradication, to maintaining eradication, and finally to stopping immunization activities.

  

Progress towards polio eradication

1988

More than 125 polio-endemic countries
World Health Assembly resolution to eradicate polio