The World Health Organization’s Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has pledged the organisation’s support to countries to help eradicate polio and says he wants to see zero polio transmission in 2019.
Dr Tedros highlighted the WHO’s commitment during a four-day visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this month - the only two countries where wild poliovirus cases were reported last year.
During the trip, Dr Tedros and the WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, met with heads of state and senior government officials in both countries and witnessed first-hand WHO-supported health programmes.
“We must all give our best on this last mile to eradicate polio once and for all. My wish for 2019 is for zero polio transmission,” Dr Tedros said.
The WHO has warned that failure to eradicate polio from the last remaining strongholds could result in a resurgence of the disease, with as many as 200,000 new cases predicted worldwide every year within 10 years.
Last year, there were fewer than 30 reported cases of polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As recently as 30 years ago, wild poliovirus paralysed more than 350,000 children in more than 125 countries every year.