Children in polio-affected countries have as much need—and right—to be protected from polio as any other child. Realizing that right, and opening the door for other basic services, is why we must finish the job of eradicating polio.
Reaching these children is really tough, but we are seeing progress. As we mark World Polio Day and look toward the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this week, it is the first time in history that no child has been paralyzed for nine months in all of India. This was once considered the most difficult place on earth to stop this virus. And the number of people paralyzed by polio anywhere in the world has dropped by 40% compared to last year.
We also know where we need to do better. In Pakistan, too many children remain unreached—from populous city centres to mountainous stretches, where the virus spills over into the bordering areas of Afghanistan. In Nigeria, cases are starting to creep up again after a 95% decline between 2009 and 2010. In Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo, imported polioviruses have clung on for months.
As the Independent Monitoring Board points out in their recent report published just last week, in some places, high-level political support has yet to translate into commitment at the local level.
More time will be needed to finish the job of polio eradication, but time alone will not be enough. We are building on the lessons, and the advice of the Independent Monitoring Board, to improve our work—increasing on-the-ground technical assistance, ensuring greater accountability for reaching every child, reinforcing routine immunization services, and exploring new managerial, technical, and tactical innovations.
With national and local authorities, we will find out why some children are still being missed by vaccination teams. We will use this information to refine the strategies to reach every last child with polio vaccine and other basic health interventions.
Our job—as partners, as donors, as parents, as volunteers, and simply as citizens—is to help governments in polio-affected countries to act on the commitments they have made to protect their children, in perpetuity, from this dreadful disease. Our job is to help them apply fully the lessons of the past, with the technical know-how and the financial support needed.
We've got polio on the run. Now is the time to finish the job. Let's not wait for the next World Polio Day to act!