Polio vaccination campaign in Kabul Polio vaccination campaign in Kabul   (ANSA)

World Polio Day: UNICEF reduced cases by 99 percent worldwide

On World Polio Day, UNICEF says over 2.5 billion children have received the polio vaccine, reducing cases of the disease by 99% over the past three decades.

By Sr. Titilayo Aduloju, SSMA

“This progress is fragile and we cannot afford to lose focus.”

On World Polio Day, on 24 October, UNICEF stressed that “millions of children are still unvaccinated due to pandemics, conflict, climate disasters, displacement and growing misinformation about vaccines.”

The UN Children’s Agency said investing in the elimination of polio might spare health budgets an estimated $33.1 billion in this century as compared to the cost of controlling the virus and continuing to respond to outbreaks.

Health workers administering polio vaccin to a child in Kabul
Health workers administering polio vaccin to a child in Kabul

More cases in Africa and Asia

“Polio continues to cripple children in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more than twenty countries in Africa and Asia,” UNICEF said.

The agency emphasized that these are also areas where the poliovirus is still prevalent and spreading.

Many of these children live in the poorest, most marginalised neighbourhoods, where they have little or no access to life-saving medical care and immunisations.

UNICEF collaborates with other agencies to eradicate polio

UNICEF claimed that in collaboration with governments, partners, and authorised providers, they have helped to “vaccinate more than 400 million children against polio each year to eradicate polio worldwide.”

In addition, “they provide 1 billion doses of polio vaccines annually, including 'cold chain' management and logistics to ensure that countries receive safe and adequate quantities of polio vaccine,” UNICEF stated. 

 “Failure to achieve eradication could lead to a global resurgence of polio,” said the UN agency. This is possible with a sharp rise in wild polio cases and further spread of poliovirus variant outbreaks, he said.


Effect of COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the most persistent drop in routine immunisation in thirty years.

 “Governments must invest immediately in catch-up initiatives to reach children who were not vaccinated against polio, measles, and other common diseases during the pandemic.”

Polio must be eradicated

Eradicating polio will be one of the greatest testaments to the fact that vaccines work, a milestone for the Sustainable Development Goals for health, and most importantly, a huge and historic victory for all children.

“When we eliminate polio, it will be only the second disease in human history to be eliminated from the planet,” said UNICEF. “The first was smallpox.”

UNICEF further confirmed that the polio virus knows no geographical boundaries. It can easily spread and paralyses children even in countries that have been polio-free for decades, as evidenced by reports of polio cases from Malawi, Mozambique, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The poliovirus has no regard for national boundaries. “As long as polio exists anywhere, it will be a threat to children all over the world,” UNICEF stressed.

The UN humanitarian agency expressed its belief that the remaining obstacles to the elimination of polio could be overcome thereby protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases and future pandemics.

UNICEF therefore called on national leaders to be committed to making childhood immunisation and polio eradication a top priority for children and for the continued support of donors and partners. 

Polio Vacination
Polio Vacination

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24 October 2023, 17:31