Disaster: Afghan polio case hits eradication effort

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

February 18th, 2014

Editorial Team

PolioOne step forward, one step back: just as India was celebrating polio-free status, Kabul, Afghanistan, reports its first case since 2001.

It is a tragedy for the young girl left paralysed by the disease, and a dispiriting setback for the campaign to rid the world of the disease.

There are just three countries in the world where polio is endemic – Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan but there had been no cases in the Afghan capital for 13 years.

The global fight to wipe out polio has made dramatic progress since its launch in the 1980s but the disease is proving a stubborn foe.

Survivor’s story: Polio victim joins eradication effort

It has seen an unprecedented effort by international organisations, health authorities and philanthropists – including the WHO, Rotary International, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others.

However, hopes of eradication by 2015 have been dashed, forcing campaigners to launch a new strategy last year which sets a revised deadline of 2018. A previous goal of 2012 also fell by the wayside due to ongoing outbreaks.

The number of cases is down by 99.9% in the 25 years since the eradication drive began but last year saw new cases reported in Somalia and Kenya and little overall progress.

2014 began with good news from India but the emergence of new cases in Kabul, along with the volatile situation in Syria where experts fear an epidemic may emerge, means there is a long road to travel before polio joins smallpox on the short list of diseases ended by vaccines.