Our World

World Polio Day

The development of the polio vaccine was a great human achievement. Poliomyelitis (the full name for polio), an infectious disease that can cause paralysis and death, plagued people around the world.  In the early 1900s, it was one of the most feared childhood diseases, spreading widely throughout the United States and elsewhere.  For all of the famous survivors of polio, from President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Frida Kahlo, thousands of people were permanently disabled or died from the disease.  The development of a vaccine in the 1950s led to the eradication of the disease for most places on earth.

Yet the elimination of polio is not complete. The world is in its final push for total eradication.  The virus still spreads among the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Organizations like the Polio Eradication Initiative and the Gates Foundation are working hard to make polio the second human disease that has been totally eliminated (smallpox is the first and only).

The oral polio vaccine (OPV) is simple to administer. Photo credit: WHO/Rod Curtis

Today is World Polio Day and we have reason to celebrate.  Not only did the total number of documented cases reduce from 467 last year to 171 today, but India has been removed from the list of countries affected by polio. This is a huge achievement for India and the world.  It should be used as proof and motivation that we can end polio forever.

We are so close to permanently removing this paralyzing disease from the planet.  Although 171 cases may not sound like many, it is still too much when we have the means to eliminate it today. The road to eradication may not be easy, but if we can remove polio from India, with its 1.2 billion people, we can do it anywhere. Without a doubt, we have an obligation to the children of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria to close the final chapter on this crippling disease.

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Niklas Peters is a Business Development Analyst at Acumen Fund.

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