Recently we received good news from the World Health Organization: on March 27th the world region that counts one-fourth of the population, South-East Asia, was certified as free of polio. This progress now means that 80% of people now live in certified polio-free regions. Polio (or poliomyelitis) is a viral disease that can affect a person’s nerves, leading to partial or complete paralysis.
In view of recent events in the Syrian Arab Republic that contributed to the reintroduction of polio in the Middle East after a 15-year absence, this news is very positive and merits attention. The WHO continues to work with literally millions of people to conduct huge oral polio vaccination campaigns. As reported in the press release announcing the good news: “This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region. It is a sign of what we can bequeath our children when we work together,” according to Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, the Regional Director at the WHO for the South-East Asia Region.
As polio can return to conflict or insecure areas due in particular to frequent population movements, the WHO remains vigilant. But its efforts in conjunction with international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies, national Red Crescent societies, nongovernmental organizations and donors are paying off.