WHO calls for reaffirmation of commitment to ending polio

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World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros  Ghebreyesus on Thursday called on countries to renew their commitment to ending polio globally.

Ghebreyesus made the call at a virtual event organised by Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to inaugurate the Polio Eradication Strategy 2022-2026.

In a statement posted on WHO website, the director-general said: “with this new Strategy, the GPEI has clearly outlined how to overcome the final barriers to securing a polio-free world.

“GPEI has outlined how to secure a polio-free world and improve the health and wellbeing of communities for generations to come.

“But to succeed, we urgently need renewed political and financial commitments from governments and donors. Polio eradication is at a pivotal moment.

“It is important we capitalise on the momentum of the new strategy and make history together by ending this disease,” said Ghebreyesus, also a member of the Polio Oversight Board.

According to the statement, the new strategy will guide countries on how to overcome the remaining challenges to ending polio, including setbacks caused by COVID-19.

“While polio cases have fallen 99.9 per cent since 1988, polio remains a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and persistent barriers to reaching every child with polio vaccines and the pandemic have contributed to an increase in polio cases.

“Last year, 1,226 cases of all forms of polio were recorded compared to 138 in 2018.

“In 2020, the GPEI paused polio door-to-door campaigns for four months to protect communities from the spread of COVID-19 and contributed up to 30,000 programme staff and over 100 million dollars in polio resources to support pandemic response in almost 50 countries.’’

Leaders from the two countries yet to interrupt wild polio transmission – Pakistan and Afghanistan-called for renewed of global solidarity and the continued resources necessary to eradicate this vaccine-preventable disease.

They committed to strengthening their partnership with GPEI to improve vaccination campaigns and engagement with communities at high risk of polio.

Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Health, said, “We are already hard at work with our GPEI partners.

“We are working with our GPE partners to address the final barriers to ending polio in Pakistan, particularly through strengthening vaccination campaigns and our engagement with high-risk communities.

“Eradication remains a top health priority and Pakistan is committed to fully implementing the new GPEI strategy; we look forward to working with international partners to achieve a polio-free world.”

Similarly, Dr Wahid Majrooh, Acting Minister of Public Health for Afghanistan, said, “Afghanistan is fully committed to implementing the new GPEI strategic plan.

Majrooh said the country was commitment to implementing the new plan and eradicating polio from its borders.

“Together we have come so far. Let us take this final step together and make the dream of a polio-free world a reality.”

According to the statement, the 2022-2026 Strategy underscores the urgency of getting eradication efforts back on track and offers a comprehensive set of actions that will position the GPEI to achieve a polio-free world. (NAN)

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