New York Times
Accessed 29 September 2012
An Unfinished Campaign Against Polio
Published: September 28, 2012
Leaders of the global fight to eradicate polio vowed at the United Nations on Thursday to step up their efforts to eliminate the virus from the three countries where the disease still has a foothold — Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The challenge is that those countries are troubled by political unrest, violence and social customs that can interfere with the delivery of vaccines to the children and adults who need protection.
Polio erupted in frightening epidemics around the world during the 20th century and crippled or killed hundreds of thousands of victims a year. There is no cure, but vaccines eliminated the virus from advanced countries and relegated it to poorer regions of the world.
In 1988, a global campaign was organized by public and private organizations to eradicate the disease. It has been an enormous success. At its start, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed each year in more than 125 countries. This year, only 145 cases have been reported, and the disease remains endemic in only three countries.
Afghanistan pushed down the number of cases to 17 so far this year from 80 last year. Pakistan drove its polio burden down to 30 cases as of mid-August, but has run into difficulties because of opposition from the Taliban and Muslim religious leaders who depict vaccination campaigns as a cover for espionage. Nigeria experienced a drop in cases in 2010 followed by an upsurge to 84 cases this year, mostly in areas where militant groups are fighting and people distrust Western vaccines.
Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said he would enlist agencies of the United Nations to make eradication a top priority this year. Ridding the world of polio should be a crucial part of a broad campaign to immunize all children against infectious diseases.