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UN Health Agency, Partners Seek Total Eradication of Polio

The United Nations health agency and its partners have pledged to eradicate the polio in the last four endemic countries//. They have taken measures to sustain the effort as long as needed till the last trace of the paralyzing and fatal disease is nipped out.

Mounting a hopefully final assault on polio, the United Nations health agency and its partners have pledged to raise within 12 months, and then sustain for as long as needed, vaccination levels in the last four endemic countries to those that stopped the sometimes paralysing and fatal disease altogether elsewhere in the world.

Governments, donors and international agencies at a meeting in Geneva yesterday hosted by the UN World Health Organization (WHO), agreed on the collective responsibility to mobilize the resources needed to complete polio eradication, in particular by filling a funding gap of $575 million for 2007-2008, with $60 million urgently needed by next month.

Indigenous wild poliovirus survives in only parts of Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, where transmission has never been stopped. Ten other countries are currently fighting the tail-end of outbreaks caused by importations of poliovirus.

The meeting outlined specific milestones in two areas where improvements would raise coverage and immunity levels. The first is to ensure that vaccine reaches children by improving the quality of polio vaccination campaigns, strengthening health infrastructure, addressing security challenges, and by enhancing acceptance of vaccination through tailored social mobilization and community engagement strategies.

The second is the funding. International donors will need to rapidly fulfil commitments to securing the necessary resources. The first step is for donors to take the case for polio eradication back to their capital cities and present it to major international development fora between March and May. Without a rapid injection of funding, polio
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