Today is World Polio Day, a day to celebrate the remarkable progress we’ve made in the fight against polio and to focus on the urgency of the work we still have to do. But equally important, it’s also a day to say “thank you” to the millions of people around the world who have generously given their time and money to this critical effort.
Ending polio is my top priority in my work at the foundation and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of this amazing public health campaign. Right now, the world has the opportunity to change history by ending polio forever.
In 1988, the year the global campaign against polio began, more than 350,000 children in 125 countries were paralyzed by the disease. Today, just three countries exist where polio transmission has never been stopped. And the number of new polio cases this year is down to 171 (compared to 467 cases this time last year). This number represents the fewest number of new cases in the fewest districts in the fewest countries in the world.
This is great progress.
And it kicked off this year with news that India—the second-most populous country—became polio-free in January and has been for more than 18 months. If we can rid India of polio, I’m optimistic we can do it anywhere. But we need to seize this opportunity and partners and donors need to act now.
For people who live in countries or regions that got rid of polio years or decades ago—like the U.S. and Europe—the disease might seem kind of abstract. But as long as there is a single case of polio anywhere in the world, no country is safe from the risk of reinfection. We have seen reinfection occur a number of times in recent years in countries that were previously polio-free. In a world of increased mobility, we all stand at risk until the job is done.
To ensure success, we need to fully fund polio campaigns and routine immunizations. We need continued leadership and accountability. And in regions where there are wars and conflicts, we need to ensure the security of vaccination teams so they can get to children—even in the most difficult areas.
I’m confident we can finish the job. We have an effective global polio program and real progress is being made.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity—now—to end polio forever and to leave in its place stronger health systems that can deliver life-saving vaccines to protect all children from vaccine-preventable diseases. You can be part of ending polio forever. It costs less than $1 to vaccinate a child against polio. Will you join this global effort? Here’s where you can learn more, act, or donate.
Someday we can retire World Polio Day. Let’s make that day come soon.