The global eradication of smallpox is one of the greatest public health successes ever.
Within two years we may see another such success. The BBC reported late yesterday that only six nations (Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan, and Egypt) have had recent polio cases, and that the disease could be completely eradicated within 18 months.
The World Health Organization was making major headway against polio, until 2003, when Islamic clerics in Nigeria organised a boycott of the polio vaccine, claiming it was part a western plot against Muslims. The disease subsequently spread to 15 African countries and was also detected in Yemen and Indonesia.
"This is the light at the end of the tunnel," said Bruce Aylward, WHO co-ordinator for the eradication of polio.
Bruce Aylward, coordinator for the polio eradication project, noted that the WHO is still needs to find $200m for operations in 2006. "Now it's simply [about] getting the financial resources to get this thing finished. You'll never get another chance like it."
Tags: polio, disease, WHO, eradication, Africa, health