World Polio Day affords the global community an opportunity to reflect on the unique history of this disease, recognize the accomplishments of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and assess the final steps in a decades-long struggle to end a terrible, but vaccine-preventable disease. GPEI was established in 1988 through the collaborative efforts of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF),when more than 325,000 people contracted polio annually in 125 countries across the globe. Through national efforts as well as those of many international partners, wild polio virus is now only found in two countries in the world. On August 11, 2015, Africa celebrated one-year with no reports of a child paralyzed by wild polio.
The job is not done, however. In order to achieve eradication, we must ensure that all polio cases are detected through rigorous disease surveillance, and attain high levels of immunization coverage to ensure that no child can become infected. Niger introduced one dose of inactivated polio virus (IPV) earlier this year and plans to fully integrate IPV into the children’s immunization program by the end of next year in accordance with recommendations from the World Health Organization.
As the 6th largest country in Africa, and one with a large, nomadic pastoralist population, Niger’s size poses distinctive challenges to eradication efforts. The USG is collaborating with the Ministries of Health and Livestock, as well as GPEI partners, including many Nigerien Rotariansto identify opportunities to support the country’s efforts to conduct surveillance and to “reach every last child” with polio vaccine.