On the verge of a ‘polio-free’ world

Konnie Huq, Eve Conway and Gautam Lewis
Konnie told the audience about her trip to India – polio-free since 2014 – with Rotary International to heighten awareness of the immunisation programme, which has seen a total of 2.5 billion children vaccinated. She said that many impoverished Indians live on and around rubbish tips where they search for items to sell, thereby increasing the likelihood of polio spreading due to the unsanitary conditions.
Polio is a virus that has been around for 5,000 years and only affects children under the age of five. In 1985 there were 1,000 new cases in 125 countries; 150,000 per year. In 2016 there were 27 cases of polio worldwide in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. The last case of polio in the UK was recorded in 1985.
Polio sufferer, Gautam Lewis, who was rescued by Mother Theresa after being abandoned in the 1970s because of his disability, told the audience: “India was the most endemic of polio-infected countries. And there are lots of places where there are sanitation issues, but it has become a gold standard for polio eradication. Just because there is one or two or 27 cases, it can still cross borders.”
The team at Rotary International aims to ensure polio is eradicated by 2019, but people still need to be immunised, and governments need to commit more funds to the programme.
Ebun Adenipekun



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