What makes polio an emergency?

On the 25th of May, the World Health Assembly declared polio a programmatic emergency for global public health. The Global Poverty Project interviewed Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general at the World Health Organization (WHO)Why now?Three things were driving the ministers of health of the world in declaring polio an emergency: first – on a positive note – polio eradication has reached a tipping point. India, the country that was responsible for almost half the world’s cases just two years ago, has now passed an entire year without reporting a case, providing incontrovertible evidence that polio can be eradicated anywhere.However, and this is the ministers’ second point, polio cases unexpectedly – and alarmingly – surged late last year in the three remaining endemic countries, from where it would undoubtedly make a global comeback unless it is completely eradicated.And third, the ministers saw further evidence that when polio spreads to polio-free places, it is increasingly deadly. In Tajikistan and Congo in 2010, and in China in 2011, polio paralyzed adults as well as children in these outbreaks with high fatality rates among the adults, reaching nearly 50 percent in some of these places. This is on top of other research that has recently shown that if we let this opportunity slip through our fingers, we will soon be seeing more than 200,000 children again being paralyzed by polio each year.That’s not just a number, that’s children��%

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