About the Author: Jonathan Hale serves as Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
While in Moscow last summer, I visited the M.P. Chumakov Institute of Poliomyelitis and saw the history of collaboration between the United States and Russia on polio research. I saw opportunity to advance our cooperation to address new challenges and work with Russian experts to eradicate polio for good enabled by the Obama Administration 'reset' policy and the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission.
Today, USAID Administrator Raj Shah joined Dr. Nils Daulaire, Director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Veronika Skvortsova, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Development for the Russian Federation, in signing a Protocol of Intent that will deepen cooperation between American and Russian health experts to eradicate polio around the globe.
It's fitting that Administrator Shah signed this Protocol while visiting Geneva to serve on the World Health Organization's Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children's Health. Polio is a highly infectious disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. One in 200 infections leads to paralysis and among those paralyzed, five to 10 percent die. Polio is easily preventable with available vaccines, as evidenced by the success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to reduce polio by 99 percent worldwide since the Initiative started in 1988. However, recent years have seen outbreaks in several countries.
It pains me to think of the children that unnecessarily suffer from a disease that can be prevented for 14 cents. It's incredible that we're so close to ridding the world of this disease once and for all. I believe that, working with our international partners, we can finally live in a polio-free world.
I am excited by the impact that we can have on lives around the world working together as global partners.