Magazine article New African

Polio Eradication or Control?

Magazine article New African

Polio Eradication or Control?

Article excerpt

Although cases of polio are reportedly at an all-time low worldwide, the disease remains endemic in Nigeria and there have been recent new outbreaks in a few other African countries, prompting fresh calls for an increase in efforts to help eradicate the disease once and for all. But the recent outbreaks have also reignited debate about whether a polio-free world through eradication is possible at all, or whether controlling the spread of the disease is more effective. Reports Muzondwasi Banda.

According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), polio remains a substantial cause of disability in polio-endemic countries, like Nigeria in Africa, and Afghanistan, India and Pakistan in Asia. In the past three years, 14 additional countries have reported cases as a result of importations. In Africa these include Angola, Burkina Faso, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, Cote d'lvoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Sudan, and Togo.

The CDC and other proponents, argue that until polio is eradicated in every country, it remains a threat to children in polio-free countries.

This view is shared by director-general of the World Health Organisation Dr Margaret Chan. "We have a window of opportunity now, with cases at an all-time low. But if there is polio anywhere we are at risk of polio everywhere. Only eradication will ensure that polio does not re-emerge as a global threat," she said at the January 2011 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) announced new commitments to eradicating polio.

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"I passionately believe that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio," stated the British premier.

"We have the vaccines and the tools to do it. All that's missing is real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end. We have come so far in eradicating polio. We are so close to delivering a polio-free world for all our children. Let's finish the job. And let's eradicate polio once-and-for-all," he said.

With a polio funding gap of close to $720m, the UK pledged it would double its support to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) over the next two years to [pounds sterling]40m, to help fully vaccinate an additional 45 million children. Meanwhile Bill Gates announced that the BMGF will commit an additional $102m to help stamp out the disease.

But the new funding news and the expected mass immunisation programme in Africa scheduled to start this April are issues that have rekindled the debate over which of the two--control or eradication--will remove the burden of polio most effectively in Africa. …

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