A recent polio outbreak in Somalia and Kenya serves as a reminder that this crippling disease still exists and is actively threatening children. While there is no cure for polio, vaccines protect children from the disease for life.
In 1988, national governments, UN agencies, and civil society groups came together to launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, an international effort to immunize children and end polio for good.
Here are five numbers you should know about the fight against polio and how you can help win it.
1. 99 percent reduction in polio cases: In the past 25 years, the number of polio cases has dropped by more than 99 percent, from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 223 last year – the lowest number ever.
2. 10 million walking: Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative launched, immunization against polio has saved more than 10 million children from paralysis according to the World Health Organization.
3. Only 3 endemic countries: Polio remains endemic in just three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. This means that transmission of the disease has never been stopped in these countries. Until this happens, other countries are at risk of importing this highly contagious disease.
4. Failure could result in up to 200,000 new cases annually: As long as polio remains anywhere, it’s a threat everywhere. According to the World Health Organization, failure to eradicate polio could, within 10 years, result in as many as 200,000 new cases worldwide every year.
5. $40 billion – $50 billion in savings: Economic models estimate that ending polio would save between US$40 billion to US$50 billion over the 20 years following eradication.
We are closer than ever to ridding the world of polio, but finishing the job will require resources and commitment. You can help by joining the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, which is working with the UN and other partners to make sure every child has access to the vaccines he or she needs to stay safe from polio. Help put a stop to polio today.