Rotary supports WHO director-general’s public health emergency for polio

In May, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the international spread of polio a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), and issued a set of recommendations to all polio-impacted countries. On 31 July, the situation was reassessed and the Director-General has declared polio remains a public health emergency. Several factors played into this decision, including:

  1. Both Pakistan and Equatorial Guinea have exported the virus internationally since May.
  2. Polio thrives in areas compromised by conflict. The unfortunate reality is that there are currently several countries whose public health systems have been seriously weakened by crisis, and whose children are now some of the most vulnerable to polio. In fact, the number of people living in conflict-torn states has increased since May, putting these children at greater risk.
  3. It is too soon to determine whether the guidelines issued in May have had serious impact in the affected countries.

The measures recommended by WHO in early May help to protect the initiative's overall gains in the fight against polio, specifically working to ensure that international travelers do not unknowingly carry the virus with them, and inadvertently contribute to international spread of the wild poliovirus.

Rotary supports the WHO Director-General's decision to keep these recommendations in place for travelers to/from Pakistan, Syria, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon (countries who have exported polio in 2014); and Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Somalia and Nigeria (countries infected by polio in 2014).

We firmly believe that through close collaboration, Rotary, its partners and governments will achieve a polio-free world.

John Germ
Chair, International PolioPlus Committee
Rotary International

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