Jessica Cannizzaro is interning with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s Editorial and Creative Services Department.
“Polio.” When the word is spoken aloud–alone and unconnected–many think of some ancient and forgotten disease “long eradicated from the world.” Yet the reality, unfortunately, is very different: Polio is still here and it strikes fear in many parts of the world. Because this horrifying disease still cripples children around the globe.
|Pakistan: Zahid, 6, practices walking with the aid of metal bars, in the city of Karachi, Sindh Province. The metal bars were made by Zahid’s uncle, who works in a factory manufacturing medical instruments for hospitals. Zahid was diagnosed with polio in November 2010, after he tumbled in an alley and could not get up.|
Polio has, in fact, mostly been wiped out–thanks in part to the lifesaving efforts of UNICEF and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (including World Health Organization, Rotary International and The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Yet as Bruce Aylward, the director of the polio eradication program at WHO, stated at a recent TEDTalk, “‘Almost’ isn’t good enough with a disease this terrifying.”
Of course, complete eradication is incredibly challenging, and settling for simply controlling the disease can seem like an easy solution. But as Mr. Aylward explained, control is “a false premise”–and settling is simply not an option. Because, if we don’t reach every child with the vaccination they need, “more than 200,000 children are again going to be paralyzed by this disease every single year. There’s absolutely no question.”
UNICEF and its partners have made a commitment to children everywhere, and we must do whatever it takes to reach our goal. We will not let polio be forgotten until everyone can afford to forget. We cannot lose a single day in the fight against polio.
|Pakistan: A girl receives a dose of oral polio vaccine outside her home in the Sherpao area of Landhi, a town in Sindh Province.|
There is an incredibly effective vaccine against polio. And though the vaccination itself seems simple–just two drops in the mouth–dedicated vaccinators must reach even the most remote communities and make their way through conflict-ridden areas in their quest to reach every child.
The places where we will have to work the hardest to eradicate the disease are northern Nigeria, northern India, the southern corner of Afghanistan and bordering areas of Pakistan. Slowly but surely, the impossible is being done. With new solutions and new motivations, we have reached a place where, as of May 2011, fewer places were reinfected by polio during the previous six-month period than at any other time in history.
A polio-free world is in sight. Help us grasp this opportunity to make history and protect children from this horrific disease: help us fund the final push to end polio now.