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Why Haven’t We Ended Polio?

October 24 should be the last annual World Polio Day before the disease is eradicated, but now is not the time for celebration or complacency. Technically, eradication is within reach, but political obstacles continue to stand in the way.

BERN, LONDON, GENEVA – October 24, 2016, should be a unique day in the history of polio. If all goes according to plan, it will be the last annual World Polio Day before the disease is eradicated. But now is not the time for celebration or complacency; while we know how to eliminate polio, we have not yet finished the job.

Consider this: in August 2014, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola crisis in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC); it lifted that status in March 2016. In May 2014, the WHO declared the international spread of wild poliovirus a PHEIC as well; yet that status is still active today, leaving one to wonder if world leaders are paying sufficient attention.

They should be. The continuing polio PHEIC is endangering the success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), into which the world has invested $15 billion since it was launched in 1988; and it threatens global health generally.

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