Global plan to wipe out polio by 2012 off track
An expert panel, which monitors the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, expressed concern that despite efforts to wipe out the disease, polio outbreaks have been reported in 14 countries since the start of 2010.
While some 1,000 cases were reported worldwide last year, the disease has also resurfaced in four other countries, said the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
However, it praised India for having had just one case of polio in the first six months of this year.
Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer of Britain who heads GPEI, said: "India has done something simple — it`s run very high quality vaccination campaigns. They have public health leaders who are meticulous in making sure every child is vaccinated."
"If they can do it, why can`t other countries?" he was quoted as saying by a news channel.
Polio is highly infectious and it strikes children aged under five. It invades the nervous system, leading to irreversible paralysis. There is no cure, but a vaccine of mouth droplets can give good protection.
According to the experts, though polio cases have declined by 99 per cent worldwide since GPEI was set up in 1988, the virus still present in countries like Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The experts are particularly concerned about new cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad.
The Polio Eradication Programme in India aims at eradicating the disease by immunising every child under 5 with the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV). In 2002, there were 1,613 polio cases in India, but it registered a 94 per cent decline in 2010.
According to the experts, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative`s target to eradicate it by 2012 might be elusive. Sir Liam said: "There was a big impact in tackling it in the first two decades since the goal.
"But we still have this very big rump of cases left behind. Tackling the remaining one per cent of polio is the greatest challenge yet."
The experts, who identified a funding gap of 366 million pounds, noted that strong political and community leadership is important in the countries with polio outbreaks.
"Our view remains that stopping polio transmission needs to be treated as a global health emergency," they said.
"Fourteen countries have had polio outbreaks since the start of 2010. It is alarming and bad for the programme`s morale that there are still these surprises.
"Polio eradication is still possible in the near-term if there is enhanced political commitment, secure funding and strengthened technical capacity."