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Date: Thu, 23 Jul 98 15:58:20 CDT
From: rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: WHO Warns of Failure in Home Stretch of Polio Eradication
Article: 39654
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.8209.19980725001520@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

/** ips.english: 467.0 **/
** Topic: HEALTH: WHO Warns of Failure in Home Stretch of Polio Eradication **
** Written 4:12 PM Jul 16, 1998 by newsdesk in cdp:ips.english **

WHO Warns of Failure in Home Stretch of Polio Eradication

IPS, 13 July 1998

GENEVA, Jul 13 (IPS)’ The year 2000 target for total eradication of poliomyelitis will not be met unless sufficient resources are mobilised on a timely basis, warn World Health Organisation (WHO) officials.

We are virtually on the home stretch, says Dr. Bruce Aylward, in charge of the WHO Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and we badly need the second wind to finish on time. Only a handful of polio-endemic countries is left in the world.

The polio virus is still circulating widely in three specific areas which include large, densely populated countries: Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan in South Asia; the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria in central and west Africa; and Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan in the Horn of Africa.

Members of the Global Technical Consultative Group on Polio Eradication (TCG), gathered in Geneva for their annual assessment meeting last week, warned that a deadly combination of a shortfall in funds and an overdose of complacency could jeopardise efforts to eradicate polio in the final stages of the global campaign.

Members of the TCG pointed out that in the decade since the initiative was lauched there has been a 90 percent decline in reported cases worldwide. This achievement is especially remarkable given a chronic shortfall in human and financial resources needed for this task.

But the target will not be met unless timely funds are forthcoming, they stressed.

While the vast majority of the costs of polio eradication are covered by the polio-endemic countries themselves, nearly 150 million dollars in additional external support is still to be found for 1999 alone. It is particularly critical that additional resources are mobilised for the poorest countries where the shortage of resources is greatest.

The funds are needed not only for the purchase and delivery of polio vaccine. Since the start of the global effort to eradicate polio en 1988, over 110 countries have conducted mass immunisation campaigns and virtually all polio-endemic countries have started or enhanced their national epidemiological surveillance programs.

The latter is critical as the global effort to eradicate polio gets closer to the finishing line, the TCG underlined. Unless governments can demostrate that polio has been eradicated in their country, the independent Global Commision for the Certification of Polio Eradication cannot complete its work.

WHO and its partners are helping the remaining polio-endemic countries to rebuild reliable epidemiological surveillance systems.

Aylward ensured that the programme is already fully functioning even in Afghanistan and Somalia. He warned, however, that unless all countries of the world without a single exception are certified polio-free, we cannot stop routine polio immunisation, nor can we start enjoying the benefits of polio eradication to the tune of 1.5 billion dollars which will be saved each year.

He pointed out that this is money well spent. Once polio has gone, the former polio-endemic countries will retain fully functional epidemiological surveillance systems which are already being used to track other communicable diseases.

The TCG recommended that due to the time sensitive needs of the polio eradication effort, this programme must be made a top priority of WHO, UNICEF, other United Nations agencies, national governments, partners, bilateral and multilateral agencies, and the global community. Commitment of the leadership at the highest level in all these organisations is essential to eradicate polio.

The countdown for the year 2000 goal of poliomyelitis eradication has begun in earnest, emphasised Dr. Bjorn Melgaard, Chief of the WHO Expanded Programme on Inmmunisation. We have the road map, we know we are on the right track, but the last leg of the race includes some of the toughest terrain. Failure in one country is global failure. We must focus our efforts on the remaining polio-endemic countries.