Elizabeth Atalay
Social Good/Global Voices Editor at worldmomsblog.com  

18 March

Mention Polio to anyone over the age of seventy and most likely their eyes will grow wide, and they will shake their heads. Try this with your parents or grandparents and you will see what I mean. They remember the terror struck into communities by the highly contagious, potentially fatal, virus that impacts the nervous system. First appearing in the USA in the late 1800’s, according to the CDC the Poliomyelitis virus crippled 35,000 people in the US each year by the late nineteen forties into the early fifties.

Author’s mother as child

My mother was one of those cases. She was one of the lucky ones. I could barely notice that it had left her with one leg shorter than the other unless she pointed it out. While polio can strike any age group, most cases, like my mother’s, occur in children under five years old. There is no cure for polio, but it can be prevented, and with the development of vaccines there have been no new cases of polio is the USA for thirty-five years. Though we have become complacent, a nightmarish truth lurks in the shadows. The fact is that as long as polio exists anywhere, it still remains a threat to children everywhere. In this ever-shrinking world, a polio resurgence is only one plane ride away. Today we are 99% of the way to eradicating the polio virus globally. Cases have dropped world wide from approximately 350,000 in 1988 to just over 400 in 2014. This is the final push and governments, non-profits, agencies, and private partners alike need to work together to see it through.

In 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. This pledge turned into the eight Millennium Development Goals, and was written as the Millennium Goal Declaration .- United Nations Development Programme.  

The eighth and final Millennium Development Goal is to implement a global partnership for development. This could not be more important in the global fight to wipe out polio across the board. For the past eight months World Moms blog has been committed to engaging our international community of mothers with organizations working towards the eight Millennium Development Goals. As we near the end of our eight-month Moms4MDGs campaign (link to: Moms4MDGs) the Millennium Developments Goals are closing in on their 2015 deadline as well. Great progress has been made in cutting vaccine preventable deaths in the most vulnerable population, children under the age of five.

Still there are almost 23 million children in the world that are not given the access to vaccines that they need. The majority of those children are in the 73 countries that GAVI programs support. Endemic polio can still be found in three of those countries, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

In 2014 GAVI will start offering support for the introduction of inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) as part of routine immunisation programmes in the world’s 73 poorest countries. The partnership with the World Health Organization and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative exemplifies one aspect of the MDG 8 global development partnerships. The United Nations Foundation Shot At Life campaign is also a partner in this goal, supporting its implementing partners the GAVI Alliance, WHO, and UNICEF. Together these organizations are working toward an endgame plan for polio eradication.

My personal connection with my mother’s polio inspired me to become an advocate with the Shot@Life Campaign to raise awareness in my community, and to encourage my government to continue to support Global Health initiatives. At the Shot@Life Summit in Washington, DC last week I caught up with Alison Brunier, Communications Officer for the World Health Organization, one of the implementing partners along with the GAVI Alliance. Alison beautifully summed up the role of the WHO in the following video.

The GAVI Director of US Strategy, Natasha Bilimoria, explained to the Shot@Life Champions in attendance the partnership strategy of the GAVI Alliance. As a public-private partnership, our Alliance represents all the key stakeholders in global immunisation: implementing and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, civil society, the vaccine industry and private companies. Together we work together to ensure vaccines get to where they are needed most.

We can put an end to polio by the year 2018 with the right support and circumstances. My mother was lucky to survive the polio virus and escape without a severe disability, but her experience inspired her to become a nurse who would work toward public health for the rest of her life. As her daughter and as the mother of my own four children now, I want to make sure that my children are safe, that their children are safe, and that the threat of polio to all children around the world is eliminated for good.

Moms4MDGs logo

Join us for the final #Moms4MDGs Twitter party Wednesday March 19th 1-2pm EST.  


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