ROME, OCTOBER 11 – The Italian Agency for International Cooperation (AICS) will support UNICEF and WHO in their battles to eradicate polio fr0m Pakistan and Afghanistan. A total of 4.5 million Euros will be send to both agencies: 1.25 million Euros will be used in Afghanistan, with one million Euros to each of the agencies in Pakistan.
Recently the two governments agreed to work closely on synchronised immunisation campaigns. Because Pakistan and Afghanistan are part of the same epidemiological block, the agencies’ goal is to build immunity so that there is no cross-border importation. The Italian commitment was originally announced last July at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta, where the major donors for global health had pledged a contribution on 1.2 billion dollars to finance the GPEI program. In 1988, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, more than a thousand children each day were being left paralysed by the disease. In that same year, the World Health Assembly adopted a resolution to eradicate the disease completely by the year 2000.
Since then, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunised against polio, in a campaign built on the commitment of 20 million volunteers working across 200 countries. Their work has been supported by an international investment of more than $14bn dollars. Polio has now has been eradicated from most of the world, across the Americas, western pacific and Europe. While Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last holdouts of the virus, a passionate and innovative campaign is overcoming all obstacles to reach every child with the vaccine.
Only three years ago, in 2014, reports of the disease in the area spiked to alarming levels. The explosive outbreak that year totalled 306 reported cases, up from 93 the previous year. Pakistan had 82% of the world’s cases of polio in 2014. One newspaper editorial at the time called the epidemic Pakistan’s “badge of shame”. Thanks to renewed efforts, the number of new infections has dropped from 306 in 2014 to 56 in 2015, a decrease of 82. The war is not over but the end is in sight. (@OnuItalia)