Polio, a debilitating and highly contagious viral illness, mostly affecting children, used to be a serious worry for families across the world.
Thanks to the introduction of vaccines and global programmes for effective immunisation, wild polio virus now remains endemic in just two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Globally, polio cases have decreased by 99%, and the world is close to eradicating polio forever, but this can’t be taken for granted. Recent new cases of polio in Malawi and Mozambique, and poliovirus found in sewage samples in London, Israel and the USA show that until polio is eradicated, we can’t be complacent.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has helped more than 2.5 billion children to be immunised against polio since its establishment in 1988, thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers. The UK Government has pledged £50 million over the next 3 years to the GPEI, and must continue to invest in polio eradication efforts, and ensure that this isn’t affected by the current halt on ‘non-essential’ Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending. The Government must also show continued and stronger support by making a higher pledge at the next pledging event in Berlin on 18 October.
This month, please write to your MP, asking them to write to the new Foreign Secretary (when appointed), urging the Government not to turn its back on global efforts to eradicate polio. The Foreign Secretary will need to receive your MP’s letter well in advance of the pledging event on 18 October.
Read our Action Sheet for links to media articles, talking points, and a case study to show why polio eradication is such an important global health issue. If you want to do more, you can also use this information to write to local or national media outlets, or create content for social media.
Image: Pakistani health worker Nomina Akhtar continues to work for polio eradication. Credit: WHO/Muhammad Shoaib