An end to polio is in sight, says President Sheikh Mohamed

Disease remains endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan

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President Sheikh Mohamed on Monday said the hard work being done to eradicate polio means there is an end in sight to the debilitating and sometimes fatal disease.

Marking World Polio Day, Sheikh Mohamed thanked those who have been working towards achieving a polio-free world.

“On World Polio Day, I express my sincere gratitude to the many people, including health workers, whose dedication and hard work means an end to polio is in sight,” he said in a tweet posted on Monday.

“Together with our partners, we remain committed to continuing the fight towards achieving a polio-free world for all.”

Accompanying his message was a tweet from Reaching the Last Mile, the Abu Dhabi-based global partnership between philanthropists, governments and NGOs that aims to help eradicate preventable diseases.

The video shows the work of frontline health workers in Pakistan who reached 17 million children in the country this year.

“In 1988, poliovirus affected 125 countries,” said the message accompanying the video.

“Today it’s endemic in just two. Together with our partners, the Emirates Polio Campaign is working to end poliofor good.

“On World Polio Day, we celebrate the brave frontline health workers who have reached 17m Pakistani children this year.”

Since 2011, Sheikh Mohamed has committed more than $376 million to support global polio eradication efforts, which is part of his commitment to end preventable diseases that affect the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Sunday pledged to invest $1.2 billion towards wiping out polio.

The donation will be managed by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by governments that aims to end the disease by 2026.

“Polio eradication is within reach but as far as we have come, the disease remains a threat,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation.

Polio, full name poliomyelitis, is an infectious viral disease mostly affecting young children.

In a minority of cases, it causes paralysis and even death, although highly effective vaccines have massively reduced the condition’s global impact.

The disease remains endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where instability and resistance to vaccination programmes make it harder to control.

It has also recently re-emerged in developed nations, with New York recording the first case in the US for nearly 10 years.

An inactivated polio vaccine, given by injection, was introduced in 1955.

This was followed in 1961 by the oral polio vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to roll out, being administered as drops in the mouth.

By 1988, the threat of polio had fallen away significantly in western nations but, with the disease still endemic in 125 countries, there were about 350,000 cases caused by wild poliovirus, according to the World Health Organisation.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched that year. Involving the deployment of both vaccines, it has also entailed surveillance campaigns to detect the disease and immunisation drives when outbreaks have happened.

Last year, the wild poliovirus remained endemic only in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and wild poliovirus resulted in just six reported cases.

Updated: October 24, 2022, 1:16 PM
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