There is a “limited window of opportunity” for the world to consign polio to the history books, experts launching a new five-year eradication plan have warned.
The Polio Endgame Strategy, published on Tuesday, says that efforts to eradicate the final cases of the disease are proving difficult due to war, mass migration and weak health systems – meaning many children miss out and do not receive vital vaccinations.
The highly infectious childhood disease has been the target of a concerted elimination campaign since the 1980s, when roughly 350,000 children in 125 endemic countries were infected each year.
By 2018 that figure had dropped to just 33 cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan – along with Nigeria, these are the only countries in the world where wild poliovirus remains endemic.
The new strategy, published by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, says that reaching these children is “the primary underlying challenge” in attempts to stop all new cases of the debilitating disease. Vaccination is the only way to prevent the disease, which is incurable.