More progress against polio

August 14, 2015
African countries have been without Polio for one year. Source: Global Polio Eradication Initiative

By Michele Learner, Bread for the World Institute

Earlier this year, we reported that Africa had gone six months without a case of wild polio.  The continent is now celebrating the first anniversary of its last recorded case (a toddler in the Puntland region of northern Somalia, who had received his first immunization but missed later ones).

Nigeria was the final key to reducing polio cases to zero. It was one of the "final four" countries where the virus was endemic. Twice, the polio virus was re-introduced into Somalia from Nigeria after polio-free periods as long as six years.

The World Health Organization does not certify that polio has been eradicated on a continent until there have been no new cases for three years, so Africa will not celebrate that final victory until early 2018. But the first year is the most challenging of the three.

African countries overcame daunting obstacles to reach this point, including:

  • armed conflict that made it extremely difficult to immunize babies and toddlers in disputed territory
  • weak record-keeping that kept health officials guessing as to whether they had reached every child born since the last vaccination campaign
  • crowded refugee camps that combined ideal conditions for transmitting the virus with constantly shifting populations
  • poor or nonexistent transportation routes -- some remote areas of the continent are inaccessible, by either land or sea, for several months of the year

Polio, like other deadly diseases, is more dangerous to children who are malnourished. The majority of hunger-related deaths are caused by diseases that attack people with immune systems weakened by malnutrition. Most of those who die of polio are younger than 5.

Eradicating polio would save the world $40 billion to $50 billion in the two decades following eradication. This is money that could be spent on ending hunger and extreme poverty. Most of the savings -- 85 percent -- would be in low-income countries.

"With Africa now on track, we are left with only two countries where polio transmission has never been interrupted: Pakistan and Afghanistan," said Peter Crowley, polio chief for UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund. "Here too, despite enormous challenges, communities, governments and partners are working with courage and determination to end polio once and for all."

Tools
from our Resource Library

For Education

For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    A brief examination of the biblical approach to health as a hunger issue.

    Includes an introduction to the issue, a Scriptural reflection, practical actions you can take, and a prayer.

  • Sermon by David Beckmann at Duke University Chapel

    Remarks delivered October 1, 2017 at Duke University Chapel in Chapel Hill in North Carolina.

    Thank you for inviting me to preach here at Duke University Chapel. And I especially want to thank the Bread for the World members who have come this morning.

    Bruce Puckett urged...

  • Bread Newsletter January 2016

    In this issue: Another Great Year for Bread; Catholics Begin Observance of Holy Year of Mercy; Serving on ‘God’s Wave Length’ for 39 Years; and more.
     

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.

    ...

  • Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017

    Unnecessarily long prison sentences, combined with the lack of rehabilitative programs for people in prison, exacerbate hunger, poverty, and existing inequalities.

    Overly harsh mandatory minimum prison sentences have contributed to the rapid increase of our country’s prison population. The...

  • Health Care Is a Hunger Issue

    Learn more about the principles that Bread for the World supports regarding health reform.

Field

Changing Climate, Changing Farmers

February 7, 2017

Insight

From the Blog