About the Author: Erin McLinn is a Public Affairs and Outreach Officer in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs.
President Obama announced during his speech in Cairo on June 4th a new partnership between the United States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to develop a global initiative to eradicate polio. Yesterday, the U.S. and OIC publicly launched their partnership by cosponsoring a panel discussion at UNICEF Headquarters in New York entitled “Joining Forces to Eradicate Polio” that brought together leaders in global health from around the world to look at the final steps needed to eradicate polio once and for all.
The panel discussion featured comments from the U.S. Representative on the Economic and Social Council to the United Nations Frederick Barton and OIC Ambassador Abdul Wahab. During his remarks, Ambassador Barton stressed the importance of working with partners, including the OIC and the UN family, to tackle the challenge of eradicating polio. He asked the global community to invest in mutual trust, place confidence in the solutions offered, and persist towards this common goal. Ambassador Wahab, on behalf of all OIC members and the OIC Secretariat, welcomed the partnership with the United States and called on polio-infected countries to expand polio vaccination coverage to all children under five years old. Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, hosted the panel. Dr. William Foege of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation moderated, and Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization and James Lacy of Rotary International, participated in the panel.
Great progress has been made over the last generation toward the goal of a world without polio. In 1988, polio was endemic in more than 125 countries and paralyzed 350,000 children each year. Due to intensive disease surveillance and polio vaccination, there have been only 1424 new polio cases reported so far this year and only four countries (Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan) that still suffer from endemic polio transmission.
The international community is closer now than ever before to eradicating polio worldwide. The U.S. and the OIC together with our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) will work to revitalize international efforts to meet this challenge. Ridding the world of this disease is well within our reach.
For more information on the U.S. commitment to eradicating polio, as well as what you can do towards this noble goal, please visit www.polioeradication.org.