WHO and UNICEF focus on eradicating polio in West Africa
From 11 to 17 November, 16 West African countries united to vaccinate all children under five years of age within their borders. Half of the 60 million doses of oral polio vaccine doses needed for this final push are being provided by Aventis Pasteur, the longest-standing corporate partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Initiative is led by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. "We are further strengthening the solidarity which has brought us to the cusp of a polio-free world," said Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO's Director-General, at a ceremony at the United Nations in New York to launch the final push.
Since it began in 1988, the Polio Eradication Initiative has reduced the number of countries in which poliovirus transmission occurs from 125 to 10. Of these, only three have high-intensity transmission: India, Nigeria and Pakistan. The remaining seven are Afghanistan, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Niger, Somalia and Sudan, and so far this year each have had fewer than eight cases. "We are close to beating this crippling disease in Africa and worldwide," said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, "but we are not there yet. We have to stay focused and committed and encourage support from all corners".