October 24th, the world observes World Polio Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness about the crippling disease and the ongoing efforts to eradicate it. Also known as poliomyelitis, it is a highly infectious viral disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. It can cause paralysis and, in severe cases, can be fatal.

Polio was once a global epidemic, affecting thousands of children every year. However, thanks to the efforts of organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, among others, and countless healthcare workers, significant progress has been made in eradicating the disease.

On this World Polio Day, the focus is on celebrating the achievements so far and renewing the commitment to ending polio once and for all.

According to the latest data from the WHO, wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries to 6 reported cases in 2021. Of the 3 strains of wild poliovirus (type 1, type 2 and type 3), wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999 and wild poliovirus type 3 was eradicated in 2020. As at 2022, endemic wild poliovirus type 1 remains in two countries:  Pakistan and Afghanistan.

However, the fight against polio is not over yet due to the fact that, there are still areas where the disease persists, further compounded by lasting challenges such as conflict, insecurity, and misinformation.

On this World Polio Day, individuals, organizations, and governments are encouraged to support the efforts to eradicate polio. This can be done by raising awareness about the disease, advocating for increased funding, and volunteering to help with vaccination campaigns.

It should be noted, World Polio Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the birth of Jonas Salk, who developed one of the effective vaccines against poliomyelitis which mainly affects children.

FRU William.


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