Yesterday was World Polio Day 2021. 33 years ago — in 1988 — the world pledged to eradicate the polio virus, a disabling and life-threatening disease, but the fight against the virus is not fully over.
While 5 out of 6 World Health Organisation regions are free of wild polio, the virus is still prevalent in some pockets of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Though 99 per cent of polio has been wiped out with the oral polio vaccine, last remaining obstacles to the world’s fight against polio remain. This has been further complicated with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The prevalence of polio virus in a handful of countries is perhaps a grim reminder that diseases do not stop at national borders. As with Covid-19, the world needs to double efforts to take on the polio virus by continuing to vaccinate everywhere.
In countries where polio still exists, health care workers have gone all out to eradicate the virus. They have reached out to millions of children with vaccines — sometimes in the face of vaccine scepticism — to keep the programme on track and stop polio outbreaks.
Sadly several communities are faced with conspiracy theories about vaccinations — which has contributed to a resurgence in polio. Dispelling the polio vaccination myths has been part of these initiatives.
UAE's impeccable record
Pertinently, the UAE has a stellar record in aiding polio vaccination programme in countries like Pakistan. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, has pledged more than $250 million towards the cause since 2011. The UAE became the first country to resume the polio vaccination programme in Pakistan during the height of the COVID pandemic in 2020.
The UAE Pakistan Assistance Programme recently announced the results of the UAE polio vaccination campaign carried out in Pakistan from 2014 to the end of September 2021, highlighting that the campaign succeeded in administering 583,240,876 doses of vaccination against polio in 8 years for more than 102 million Pakistani children.
World Polio Day is a timely reminder that the global effort toward a polio-free world must continue. With efforts like the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, various initiatives launched by the UN and active funding by countries like the UAE, the complete eradicate polio and end of suffering from the disease appears very much on the horizon.