Canada has always been heavily committed to the global effort to combat polio, generate awareness and engage Canadians. Our concrete engagement started in 1988 with the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. At that time, polio was endemic in more than 125 countries on five continents and paralyzed over a thousand children each day.
Since then, at least 2.5 billion children throughout the world have been immunized against the disease. The number of cases has declined by more than 99 percent, from over 1,000 cases reported each day in 1988 to 650 cases reported for the year in 2011. The disease currently remains endemic in just three countries―Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan―and, as of November 2012, only 7 countries reported new cases in the past year. Thanks to immunization, more than 5 million people have been saved from paralysis and are walking today.
Today, polio has been reduced by 99% worldwide, a great achievement!
Canada has contributed to polio-eradication efforts by working with its partners to reach the most vulnerable children across the world. For example, in Afghanistan, where Canada has been the single largest donor to polio eradication, the virus is now largely constrained to the south of the country. Our support has allowed more than 7 million Afghan children to continue to be vaccinated against the disease.
Beyond Afghanistan, Canada is working towards eradicating polio in other countries through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Canada’s support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative goes toward the critical strengthening of surveillance and immunization systems that not only track and detect transmission of the disease, but also guide the immunization campaigns in countries where polio is still endemic.
This hard work has proven successful notably in India where no case of Polio was reported over the last year.
However, much remains to do to achieve the ultimate goal of a complete eradication of polio.
In September 2012, Minister Fantino held a roundtable in Nigeria with key actors involved in polio eradication. The meeting provided an opportunity to learn about the efforts of the President’s Task Force and Emergency Plan for Polio Eradication to address remaining challenges to eradicate polio in Nigeria.
In an effort to improve the effectiveness of the global response to polio, Canada has recently agreed to co-chair with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Polio Partner Group, a group of global stakeholders overseeing polio eradication.
More to come!