The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has announced that it is seeking new commitments to fund its 2022-2026 Strategy at a virtual event to launch its investment case. The strategy, if fully funded, will see the vaccination of 370 million children annually for the next five years and the continuation of global surveillance activities for polio and other diseases in 50 countries.
Wild poliovirus cases are at a historic low and the disease is endemic in just Pakistan and Afghanistan, presenting a unique opportunity to interrupt transmission. However, recent developments, due in part to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, underscore the fragility of this progress. In February 2022, Malawi confirmed its first case of wild polio in three decades and the first on the African continent since 2016, linked to virus originating in Pakistan, and in April 2022 Pakistan recorded its first wild polio case since January 2021. Meanwhile, outbreaks of cVDPV, variants of the poliovirus that can emerge in under-immunised communities, were recently circulated in several countries in Africa and Asia.
The investment case outlines new modelling that shows achieving eradication could save an estimated $33.1 billion this century, compared to the price of controlling polio outbreaks. At the launch event, GPEI leaders and polio-affected countries urged renewed political and financial support to end polio and protect children and future generations from the paralysis it causes.
“Despite enormous progress, polio still paralyses far too many children around the world – and even one child is too many,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell.
“We simply cannot allow another child to suffer from this devastating disease – not when we know how to prevent it. Not when we are so close. We must do whatever it takes to finish the fight – and achieve a polio-free world for every child.”
“The re-emergence of polio in Malawi after three decades was a tragic reminder that until polio is wiped off the face of the earth, it can spread globally and harm children anywhere. I urge all countries to unite behind the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and ensure it has the support and resources it needs to end polio for everyone everywhere,” said Hon. Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda MP, Minister of Health, Malawi.
The new eradication strategy centres on integrating polio activities with other essential health programmes in affected countries, better reaching children in the highest risk communities who have never been vaccinated and strengthening engagement with local leaders and influencers to build trust and vaccine acceptance.
“The children of Pakistan and Afghanistan deserve to live a life free of an incurable, paralyzing disease. With continued global support, we can make polio a disease of the past,” said Dr Shahzad Baig, National Coordinator, Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme.
“The polio programme is also working to increase overall health equity in the highest-risk communities by addressing area needs holistically, including by strengthening routine immunisation, improving health facilities, and organising health camps.”
The investment case outlines how support for eradication efforts will enable essential health services in under-served communities and strengthen the world’s defences against future health threats.
Since 2020, GPEI infrastructure and staff have provided critical support to governments as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including by promoting COVID-safe practices, leveraging polio surveillance and lab networks to detect the virus, and assisting COVID-19 vaccination efforts through health worker trainings, community mobilisation, data management and other activities.
“The global effort to consign polio to the history books will not only help to spare future generations from this devastating disease, but serve to strengthen health systems and health security,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
Learn More: Global Polio Eradication Initiative