Just The Facts

9 Facts: The World’s Polio Problem

Polio is still a big problem for poor, war torn countries.

A Pakistani boy receives a polio vaccine (Credit: Asianet-Pakistan - Shutterstock.com)

Takeaways


  • In the 1980s, as many as 500,000 children worldwide were permanently paralyzed by the polio virus each year.
  • In 2013, there were only 416 documented cases of polio worldwide – a reduction of 99% from the 1980s.
  • Nearly all of the polio cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan occur in the tribal areas under Taliban control.

1. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa – which as of the end of August has caused over 1,550 fatalities – has brought global attention to the tragic consequences of communicable diseases.

2. Polio – a major scourge of the 20th century – was largely eradicated in the world’s wealthiest nations within three decades of the development of safe vaccines in the 1950s.

3. In the 1980s, as many as 500,000 children worldwide were permanently paralyzed by the polio virus each year – most of them in the world’s poorest nations, where vaccinations rates were extremely low.

4. In 1988 — the year the World Health Organization, Rotary International, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control spearheaded the creation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative — there were 350,000 reported cases.

5. A quarter-century later, in 2013, there were only 416 documented cases of polio worldwide – a reduction of 99%.

6. About 40% of those cases occurred in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic – meaning it has never been eradicated.

7. Most of the remaining cases occurred in Somalia and Syria, where polio had once been eradicated but – because of ongoing violence that hinders the efforts of health workers to vaccinate children – is able to make a comeback.

8. Nearly all of the polio cases in Afghanistan and Pakistan occur in the tribal areas under Taliban control.

9. In Nigeria, most cases occur in the northern states where Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group, is seeking to overthrow the government.

Sources: Global Polio Eradication Initiative and
International Health with additional analysis by The Globalist Research Center

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