Polio is an infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis and even death.
It is highly infectious, and can have debilitating impacts. While it can strike anyone, at any age, the disease mainly affects children under five years old.
Polio swept throughout the world during the 1930s – 50s – causing widespread fear and panic. Schools were shut down, public spaces closed and families barricaded themselves in their homes to protect their children against the rapid spread of this potentially fatal disease. Hospital wards filled with iron lungs and manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand for crutches as previously healthy children lost their mobility and were paralysed – all as a result of this incurable disease.
Now, thanks to decades of investment in vaccination programs, polio cases have been reduced by 99% – from more than 350,000 to 223 in 2012 – and the number of polio-endemic countries has been reduced from 125 to three (Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan). India, a country many thought would never stop this disease, passed a year without a single case in January 2012. But the disease continues to threaten children in some of our world’s poorest communities.
The world has proven tools and tactics in place to beat this disease; and with full funding, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – the public-private partnership leading eradication efforts – could tackle the last 1% of cases. But a funding shortfall currently threatens eradication efforts.
We know that the continuing existence of this debilitating disease risks the livelihood and futures of vulnerable communities; threatening to pull them deeper into the cycle of poverty.
A simple public health intervention could not only protect future generations from the debilitating impacts of this disease, but also write a story of success that will reinvigorate public support for the life-changing impact of foreign aid investment, and prove that progress in the fight against extreme poverty isn’t just possible – it’s happening right now.
Take action, and support the global call to eradicate polio by signing The End of Polio petition.
Polio is this weeks GLADE focus.