The UK is leading the final global push to eliminate polio around the world for good, International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced today (Friday, 4 August 2017).
Polio was wiped out in the UK in the 1980s and there are more than 100,000 British survivors today. Globally, the wild poliovirus still exists in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, with 8 new cases this year.
It is likely that the last new case of polio will be diagnosed this year, paving the way for the world to be certified polio-free in 2020.
Ms Patel has announced UK support to lead the last push needed to end polio. This will immunise 45 million children against the disease each year until 2020 – that is 80 children a minute.
Britain has had a long standing commitment to making polio the second human disease in history to be eradicated, after smallpox. As a direct result of the UK’s support to global efforts, which began in 1988, more than 16 million people are walking today who would have otherwise been paralysed, and the number of people contracting the disease has been reduced by 99.9%.
The UK’s support will:
- immunise up to 45 million children against the disease each year until 2020 – that is 80 children a minute;
- save more than 65,000 children from paralysis every year;
- help over 15,000 polio workers reach every last child with life-saving vaccines and other health interventions; and
- help save almost £2 billion globally by 2035, as health care systems are freed up from treating polio victims.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said:
Polio has no place in the 21st Century. This devastating and highly infectious disease causes painful paralysis and is incurable – trapping the world’s poorest people in a cycle of grinding poverty.
The UK has been at the forefront of fighting global health threats, including polio, and our last push towards eradication by 2020 will save 45 million children from contracting this disease.
The world is closer than it ever has been to eradicating polio for good, but as long as just one case exists in the world, children everywhere are still at risk.
Now it is time for others to step up, follow Britain’s lead and make polio history.
Paralympian and broadcaster Ade Adepitan, who contracted polio as a baby, said:
The UK has done so much to help eradicate polio and UK aid contributions have delivered great results. The number of people around the world contracting polio has gone from thousands every year to just a few cases. We can see the finish line – and we can’t stop now.
The UK has always been a world leader. It can be part of our legacy to be at the forefront of the race to eradicate polio around the world. Let’s keep doing what we are doing and make the world a better place for future generations.
We are so close to eradicating polio. We need just one last push to make this disease history and change the world.
This last push will help break the relentless cycle of poverty for millions more children so they can live healthier lives, go to school and then get a job. It will mean more people contributing to their economy, which will help their countries to grow and become more prosperous.
This is good for Britain too: helping people become less reliant on UK aid in the long-term.
As the world becomes more interconnected, it is right that Britain acts to tackle those diseases, which pay no attention to national borders, so that we can stop them spreading and threatening us here at home. For example, defeating Ebola – the deadly epidemic that was only ever a plane ride away – ultimately protected British lives.