Board sets global target for polio eradication

By: Chioma Umeha (Health Editor) and Baba Negedu

The Polio Oversight Board (POB) has reaffirmed its commitment towards supporting governments and national authorities to implement the five year programme of Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, aimed at realizing the health benefits of polio eradication worldwide. The programme of Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan began this year and will run till 2018. 

A statement from the heads of agencies of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) members of POB, after its review meeting in New York and made available to Saturday Newswatch in Kaduna said: “We met to review progress on commitments made last year to an emergency approach to complete polio eradication by 2018. We assessed the impact of those commitments, and noted the progress made against the Strategic Plan in the face of serious challenges”. According to them, “the GPEIs top priority remains interrupting polio transmission in endemic countries, and success is now largely dependent on eliminating the virus in relatively small geographic areas of Pakistan and Nigeria. 

The board, further said: “We are encouraged that polio cases are down 45 percent in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan from this point last year. Afghanistan has had the most striking decline, down more than 80 per cent compared to last year, and has recorded just four cases this year. “We heard from health ministers from Pakistan and Nigeria about critical actions being taken to address continuing transmission in their countries, including, establishing access to those few remaining areas where children have not received the polio vaccine,” they added. The board said: “Threats of violence against the heroic women and men who deliver polio vaccines remain a serious concern and we discussed the GPEI partner agencies and country governments’ responses to the distinct challenges of reaching children in insecure areas, including building trust in high-risk areas by expanding health services and engaging local and religious leaders. The board expressing optimism said: 

“We remain hopeful that the global programme is closing in on the elimination of one of the last two remaining types of wild poliovirus (type 3), which has not been detected anywhere in the world in more than 10 months. The upcoming low transmission season (November to April) in countries currently affected by polio transmission will be crucial, and we agreed that endemic country plans could be further refined to capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity”, they said. “The outbreak in the Horn of Africa, where more than 190 cases have been reported following importation of the virus earlier this year, and the recent detection of poliovirus in sewage samples in Israel are grave reminders of the ongoing risks to previously polio-free areas of the world if we do not complete eradication, the group lamented. 

They concluded: “We reviewed measures underway to quickly halt these outbreaks to prevent further spread, and we will evaluate progress and areas of risk again in two months. We also examined the ongoing transmission of poliovirus in Israel following an importation into that country, and discussed the measures being taken to interrupt that transmission and prevent polio cases in Israel and surrounding countries.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 5,  2013.


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