World Polio Day, observed annually on October 24th, is being celebrated today (Tuesday) across the globe including Pakistan– highlighting the significant progress made in the global fight against polio virus.
This year, the theme of the day is "A Healthier Future for Mothers and Children."
Polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease, has been on the brink of eradication for several years. Thanks to extensive vaccination campaigns, healthcare workers, and volunteers worldwide, the number of polio cases has dramatically decreased.
Many regions have already been declared polio-free, but challenges remain in some parts of the world.
Persistent polio cases challenge Pakistan’s eradication efforts
Pakistan continues to grapple with the stubborn presence of polio, with the confirmation of the fourth case this year. Environmental samples from all four provinces revealed the persistence of the poliovirus, despite the nation's longstanding efforts to combat the disease.
The battle against polio in Pakistan has been a decades-long struggle. Prior to the initiation of the anti-polio program in 1994, over 20,000 children were afflicted with lifelong disabilities each year due to the disease. The introduction of continuous polio vaccination campaigns brought about a gradual reduction in the incidence of the disease, offering hope for a polio-free future.
Polio statistics in Pakistan
Official statistics reveal the fluctuating nature of polio cases in Pakistan over the past decade. In 2014, the country reported a staggering 306 cases, which saw a significant drop to 20 in 2016, and further decreased to just one case in 2021. However, in 2023, Pakistan has already reported four cases. These statistics underscore the ongoing challenges in the battle against this crippling disease.
A brief history
World Polio Day has a significant history associated with the global effort to eradicate polio. Here's a brief overview:
The creation of PolioPlus: World Polio Day is closely tied to the initiatives of Rotary International. In 1979, Rotary International launched "PolioPlus," a program aimed at eradicating polio worldwide. This program marked a significant step in the fight against the disease.
Jonas Salk's polio vaccine: The fight against polio gained momentum with the development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s. This vaccine was a game-changer in the battle against the disease.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI): In 1988, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution to eradicate polio. This led to the establishment of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a collaborative effort between organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
World Polio Day's inception: World Polio Day was established by Rotary International on October 24th to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk. It was created to raise awareness about the global eradication efforts and to celebrate the progress made in eliminating the disease.