Ambassador (Ret.) John E. Lange, Senior Fellow for Global Health Diplomacy at the United Nations Foundation, released the following statement today on the announcement that the United Nations Association of the USA will honor frontline polio workers at its Global Leadership Dinner in New York City.
“The global effort to eradicate polio relies on the courageous work of vaccinators who reach out to families tens of thousands of times each day during polio vaccination campaigns. Their efforts to reach children require strong support, coordination and collaboration involving governments, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and many others working together to deliver vaccines that will prevent death or lifetime paralysis from the scourge of polio.
“The UN’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative has reduced polio cases by more than 99 percent since its inception, thereby ensuring that millions of kids have grown into adulthood without the crippling effects of polio. The governments of the three countries where polio remains endemic – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – have demonstrated their commitment to eliminating polio within their borders. As long as polio transmission continues, however, sporadic polio outbreaks can occur in countries that previously eliminated wild poliovirus. Polio workers currently are engaged in a swift response to recent outbreaks in the Horn of Africa and Syria – regions that had been polio-free for years.
“None of this could be done without the brave frontline polio workers who often have to travel days by foot and rely on a backpack of supplies, laboring to ensure that every child receives the polio vaccine.
“As we have seen over the past year, polio workers at times are exposed to great personal risk. We express our deepest sympathies to the families of those workers who were killed while delivering vaccine to children. Despite these challenges, other polio workers around the world have refused to give up because giving up would mean many innocent children would suffer from a lifetime of debilitation.
“This award is one small but important recognition to showcase the essential role that frontline workers play in the fight against polio, and a call to action to step up efforts to eradicate polio from the globe.”
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