BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



The BBC's Claire Doole in Geneva
"The UN needs to raise $400million if it's to meet its target"
 real 28k

Bruce Aylwood
is the global coordinator for the WHO's eradication program
 real 28k

Tuesday, 3 April, 2001, 09:30 GMT 10:30 UK
Polio eradication draws closer
polio immunisation
A child receives polio vaccine in India
A worldwide drive launched in 1988 to wipe out the crippling virus polio has reduced the number of cases by 99%.

Last year there were 3,500 reported polio cases, compared to 350,000 cases in the year the initiative started.

Even in the past year the number of cases has been halved from more than 7,000.

However, experts are warning that dealing with the final 1% could prove the toughest hurdle yet, as the campaign struggles to make an impact in countries hit by war and poor health facilities, such as DR Congo and Angola.


We must now close in on the remaining strongholds of the disease and use all possible resources to extinguish polio

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO
While even a few tiny reservoirs of the disease remain, they say, the disease could re-emerge and strike at future generations.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organisation, said: "Victory over the poliovirus is within sight."

"We must now close in on the remaining strongholds of the disease and use all possible resources to extinguish polio.

"We ask that everyone involved maintain the focus on achieving this historical milestone in international public health."

Last year, 550m children under five-years-old were immunised during "national immunisation days" in 82 countries.

The organisations behind the campaign, which, alongside the WHO, include Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), say that they are still on course for a world free of polio by 2005.

War and polio

Carol Bellamy, executive director of Unicef, said that the initiative now needs to reach children in even the most remote places on Earth.

Which countries still have polio?
Afghanistan
Angola
Bangladesh
Benin
Central African Republic
Chad
Congo
Cote D'Ivoire
DR Congo
Egypt
Ethiopia
Ghana
India
Nepal
Niger
Nigeria
Pakistan
Sierra Leone
Somalia
Sudan
She said: "It's essential that warring parties and international mediators give priority to ceasefires that allow us to get polio vaccine to these children."

More money is also needed - an estimated 285m to provide an estimated 6bn doses of vaccine to 600m children by 2005.

Polio is a highly infectious disease - the virus that causes it invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis.

One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and between 5% and 10% of those infected die.

Until worldwide coverage with vaccination can be achieved, whole communities are at risk from outbreaks.

An outbreak in August last year on the west African island of Cape Verde killed 17 and paralysed 44.

All pictures courtesy of Marcel Crozet/WHO.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

03 Feb 00 | Health
Polio vaccine could backfire
29 Oct 00 | Health
Polio milestone passed
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories