Emergency plan for global polio eradication faces funding gap


Despite the dramatic drop in polio cases last year, the threat of continued transmission due to funding and immunisation gaps has driven the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to launch an Emergency Action Plan.
Full implementation of the Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is currently hindered by a critical funding gap of nearly $1 billion through 2013, said a communication received on Sunday. By some estimates, failure to eradicate polio could lead within a decade to as many as 200,000 paralysed children a year worldwide. Already, funding shortages have forced the GPEI to cancel or scale-back critical vaccination activities in 24 high-risk countries, leaving more children vulnerable to contracting the disease, and exposes polio-free countries to the risk of re-emergence.
This is in a scenario where once achieved, polio eradication would generate net benefits of US $40-50 billion globally by 2035, with the bulk of savings in the poorest countries, calculated based on investments made since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was formed and savings from reduced treatment costs and gains in productivity.
Although the number of polio cases was lower in the first four months of this year than during the same period in any other year, cases continue to occur in Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Chad. Outbreaks in recent years in China and West Africa due to importations from Pakistan and Nigeria, respectively, highlight the continued threat of resurgence.
Interestingly polio eradication activities resulted in several landmark successes in 2010-2012. India, long-regarded as the nation facing the greatest challenges to eradication, was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries in February 2012.
Outbreaks in previously polio-free countries were nearly all stopped. Since 1988 (the year the GPEI was launched), the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99%. In 1988, more than 350,000 children were paralysed each year in more than 125 endemic countries.
In 2012, 55 cases have been reported (as of 15 May 2012), and only three countries remain endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.