Polio is more than 99% eliminated worldwide, and there are fewer cases than ever before. However, polio remains endemic in three countries: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In 1988, 125 countries were fighting polio, and more than 350,000 children contracted the disease each year. Today, we have fewer than 200 cases.
This progress did not happen by accident. It happened because the global community launched an unprecedented effort called the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership that includes the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
But the last percent is always the toughest, and if we don’t finish the job, polio could return with a vengeance. According to WHO, if we don’t end polio now, more than 10 million children under the age of 5 could be paralyzed by the disease in the next 40 years.
That’s why world leaders came together last month at the United Nations to reaffirm their commitment to ending polio and to issue an urgent call to fill a funding gap that threatens to undo the progress that has been made.