South East Asia declared polio free
28 March 2014
by Mahesh Chandrasekar
Yesterday was an incredibly important milestone, as the World Health Organisation officially declared South East Asia polio free after three years with no new cases in the region.
It was a very welcome announcement and made the news around the world. Thanks to a simple vaccination, children in South East Asia - including India, which once accounted for more than half the number of polio cases worldwide - will live in a world free from the threat of this serious disease. Worldwide cases are down 99% since 1988 and a polio-free world is now within sight.
But we must not forget that there are still millions of adults and children throughout the region who will continue to live with the disabling consequences of polio.
‘Surviving Polio in a Post-Polio World’ draws attention to just this issue. It’s an article published by Professor Nora Groce, director of the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at University College London, in collaboration with her colleagues, Lena Morgon Banks and Michael Ashley Stein from Harvard University.
As many as 20 million people worldwide continue to be affected by polio. In the developing world this is not just an issue which impacts on older people. In fact, millions affected by polio in Asia and Africa are still children or young adults. They are also more likely to be female and be from poorer rural or slum communities. And they are much less likely to get the rehabilitative, educational or job training they need.
So let’s not celebrate the news of eradication without remembering that many of those living with the consequences of having polio continue to live in poor health, poverty and social isolation. In her article, Professor Groce and her colleagues say that we want to see funding shift towards providing for the rehabilitation medical treatment, education, job training and social needs of those who will live with the consequences of polio for decades to come.
Help us to carry on our international work, including supporting people in developing countries affected by polio.
Mahesh Chandrasekar is Leonard Cheshire Disability's international policy and campaigns manager.