Effort to End Polio by 2005 Continues

Reading audio


This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Ending polio before the end of this year remains a goal of six
countries where the disease is still present. New cases are mostly
in Nigeria, India and Pakistan, but also in Afghanistan, Egypt and

Health ministers of these six nations held an emergency meeting
this month with the World Health Organization in Geneva,
Switzerland. They presented a new plan to vaccinate
two-hundred-fifty million children.

The campaign to end polio began in nineteen-eighty-eight. At that
time, about three-hundred-fifty-thousand cases were reported each
year. New cases were down to fewer than six-hundred-eighty last
year. Three-hundred of those people were in Nigeria.

There have been problems with vaccination campaigns in northern
Nigeria. Last year, Muslim clergy in the state of Kano refused to
let children get the vaccine. They said the medicine caused AIDS,
cancer and a loss of reproductive ability in females. The W-H-O
denied these claims. Nigerian doctors said their own tests showed
that the vaccine is safe.

But, because of the situation in the north, polio was able to
spread to Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Togo. These
countries had been free of the virus.

Polio spreads quickly through
contact with human waste. The virus enters the body through the
mouth. Victims, mostly children, can lose the ability to move their
arms or legs. Breathing may also be difficult. Some victims die.
There is no cure for polio.

Bruce Aylward is an official of the W-H-O campaign to end polio.
He says this is the best and possibly the last chance for the world
to become polio-free. Money is a problem. Many countries that are
free of polio have stopped vaccinating children.

The campaign to end polio has involved more than two-hundred
countries. About two-thousand million children have been vaccinated.
International investment in the program has totaled more than
three-thousand-million dollars over the past fifteen years.

The W-H-O says an additional one-hundred-fifty-million dollars is
urgently needed for the final effort. If the campaign succeeds,
polio would become the second disease in history to be ended by a
medical campaign. The first was smallpox.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill