Wipe out polio, now – China Daily, May 17, 2012

By Ban Ki-moon

Wild viruses and wildfires have two things in common. If neglected, they can spread out of control. If handled properly, they can be stamped out for good. Today, the flame of polio is near extinction, but sparks in three countries threaten to ignite a global blaze. Now is the moment to act.

During the next two weeks, on two continents, two events offer the chance for a breakthrough. First, the leaders of the G8, the world’s largest economies, congregate at the US presidential retreat at Camp David in rural Maryland. A week later, the world’s ministers of health convene in Geneva. Together, they can push to deliver on an epic promise: to liberate humankind from one of the world’s most deadly and debilitating diseases.

The world’s war on polio, declared nearly a quarter of a century ago, was as ambitious an undertaking as the successful campaign to eradicate another great public health menace, smallpox. Slowly but surely, over the years, we have advanced on that goal. Polio today survives in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. That’s the good news. The bad: we are in danger of falling victim to our own success.

Here’s why: the world is now populated by a generation which has either never been exposed to polio or has been inadequately vaccinated. When the virus strikes under those conditions, the impact can be devastating. We saw that in the Republic of the Congo in 2010 and elsewhere in Africa when an outbreak killed half of all who were infected. A prompt emergency response by the international community halted that budding epidemic. But the incident gives an idea of the potential consequences of failing to eradicate polio while we have the chance. This year fewer than 100 people were left paralyzed by this easily preventable disease, almost all in the three countries I have mentioned. Left unchecked, however, UN epidemiologists warn that a renewed outbreak could cripple as many as 1 million people within the decade, many of them children, the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.

This threat keeps me up at night because I know how easy it is to address. My wife and I have personally immunized toddlers in Asia and Africa, joining tens of millions of government workers, Rotarians, volunteers, political and religious leaders (not to mention parents) who have worked for decades to ensure that every child is protected. Most recently, we visited India, which just two years ago was home to half of all the world’s children with polio. Now, thanks to a concerted drive, we were able to celebrate India’s first polio-free year in history.

Similar efforts are under way in the three remaining polio-endemic countries. President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan each personally oversee their national response. Nigeria has committed funds from its own treasury, and polio eradication in all three countries depends heavily on government resources. But that in itself is not enough. With a determined push, the international community can wipe out polio once and for all. To do so, however, it must organize and commit the required financial resources.

The United Nations, with its partner Rotary International, is driving the global campaign. Our agencies are working hard to reach all children, including those in refugee camps or swept up by natural disasters and hunger emergencies. It may be difficult but it can be done. Somalia, to name but one example, is afflicted by just about every human and natural hardship known to humankind, but not polio. Its last case was in 2007, thanks in no small part to local women who donned bright yellow smocks and traveled their communities distributing vaccination drops.

The workers on the frontlines have no shortage of dedication. But they do face a financial deficit. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has only half of the $2 billion it needs to procure vaccines and deploy staff to the last bastions of the disease. Properly equipped, they can win this final battle. If the international community recognizes the stakes and musters the resources, we can win the war against polio at long last and forever.

Now is the critical moment. If we invest $2 billion now, if we can cover a relatively modest $1 billion shortfall, we can save the world an estimated $40-50 billion in the cost of treatment by 2035, not to mention many lives and many young futures. When the world’s health ministers gather in Geneva later this month, they will declare a global public health emergency and call on the world to response to the threat of a resurgent polio. As the G8 leaders meet at Camp David, they should be aware of what is coming, and recognize this great opportunity to act in the name of the world’s people.

Those meetings will soon be followed by others: the annual gathering of the G20 in Mexico, the Rio+20 conference in Brazil and the European Union summit in Belgium. I hope polio will be on the agenda. I appeal to all leaders, everywhere, to act now to protect future generations. By funding the Global Polio Emergency Action Plan for the next two years, we can make the threat of polio a distant and fading memory.

The author is secretary-general of the United Nations.

 

(China Daily 05/17/2012 page9)

Original weblink: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2012-05/17/content_15314976.htm

立即根除小儿麻痹症——潘基文

野生病毒和野火有两个共同点。如果忽视它们,可能会蔓延失控。如果处理得当,可以永久消灭。今天,小儿麻痹症的火焰濒临熄灭,但在三个国家的火花存在点燃全球大火之虞。现在必须立即采取行动。

今后两个星期,在两个大洲,有两件大事能提供突破机会。首先,世界最大经济体——八国集团的领袖将聚集在美国总统度假地马里兰州郊区的戴维营。一个星期后,世界各国卫生部长将聚会日内瓦。他们可以共同推动履行一个历史性承诺:让人类摆脱世界上最致命和最使人衰弱的一种疾病。

大约在25年前世界对小儿麻痹症的宣战,与消除另一个公共健康巨大威胁——天花的成功运动一样,都是雄心勃勃的事业。多年来,我们稳步朝着实现这一目标迈进。如今,小儿麻痹症只继续存在三个国家:阿富汗、尼日利亚和巴基斯坦。这是好消息。但坏消息是:我们可能成为自己成功的牺牲品。

原因是:世界上现有一代人从未接触过小儿麻痹症病人,或接种的小儿麻痹症疫苗不足。当该疾病病毒在这些情况下突然侵袭,将会产生毁灭性影响。我们看到,2010年在刚果共和国和非洲其他地区爆发该疾病时,受感染者有一半死亡。国际社会迅速采取应急措施才制止了刚爆发的疫情。但这一事件让我们了解到失去根除小儿麻痹症机会的潜在后果。今年,只有不到百人因这种很容易预防的疾病而瘫痪,这就是我刚才提到的三个国家中所有这种病人的人数。然而,联合国流行病学家警告说,如果任其发展,再次爆发该疾病可能会在今后十年造成多达一百万人残废,其中大多数会是儿童,他们是最脆弱的弱势群体。

这种威胁使我彻夜难眠,因为我知道它是多么容易应对的。我和太太都亲自为在亚洲和非洲的幼儿接种过疫苗,支持数千万政府工作人员、扶轮社成员、志愿者、政治和宗教领袖(更不用说父母)所进行的数十年的努力,确保每一个儿童能得到保护。最近,我们访问了印度,两年前,世界上所有患小儿麻痹症的儿童有一半曾在该国。现在,通过共同努力,我们得以庆祝印度在历史上根除小儿麻痹症的第一年。

小儿麻痹症流行的剩余三个国家正在进行类似的努力。尼日利亚总统古德勒克•乔纳森、巴基斯坦总理优素福•吉拉尼和阿富汗总统哈米德•卡尔扎伊亲自监督各自国家的对策。尼日利亚已承诺从国库筹资。所有这三个国家根除小儿麻痹症很大程度上取决于政府资源。但是,光靠这些资源是不够的。如果能够下决心加以推动,国际社会可以一劳永逸地根除小儿麻痹症。若要实现该目标,国际社会必须组织和承诺必要的财政资源。

联合国与其合作伙伴国际扶轮社正推动这场全球运动。我们的机构正在努力向所有儿童伸出援手,包括那些在难民营或遭受自然灾害和饥饿等紧急情况的儿童。这样做可能是困难的,但是可以做到的。仅举一例,索马里遭受到人类已知的几乎所有人为和自然的灾难,但不包括小儿麻痹症。该国这种疾病的最后一个病例是在2007年,这在相当程度上要归功于身着鲜艳黄色工作服的当地妇女走遍各社区分发疫苗滴剂。

在前线的工作人员不缺奉献精神,但他们却面临财政赤字。全球根除小儿麻痹症行动目前只有用来采购疫苗并派员到该疾病最后堡垒所需20亿美元的一半资金。只有得到充分的配备,则可以赢得这场最后的决战。如果国际社会认识到这种利害关系,并筹集资源,我们就可以一劳永逸地赢得根除小儿麻痹症的战争。

现在是最为关键时刻。如果我们投资20亿美元,如果我们能够补上相对较少的10亿美元的短缺,我们就能够在2035年之前为全世界节约估计为400亿至500亿美元的治疗费用,更不用说能拯救许多人的生命和许多年轻人的未来。当世界各国卫生部长本月晚些时候在日内瓦聚会,他们将宣布一个全球公共卫生紧急状况,并呼吁全世界应对小儿麻痹症的死灰复燃威胁。当八国集团领袖在戴维营会谈,他们应该知道可能发生的紧急情况,并认识到这是一个为世界人民采取行动的重要机会。

这两项会议结束之后,很快将举行其他会议:20国集团在墨西哥举行的年会,在巴西举行的里约+20大会,以及在比利时举行的欧洲联盟首脑会议。我希望,小儿麻痹症将提上这些会议的议程。我呼吁世界各国所有领袖现在就为保护后代采取行动。通过未来两年资助《全球小儿麻痹症紧急行动计划》,我们可以将小儿麻痹症的威胁变成一个遥远和消失的记忆。

(作者:联合国秘书长潘基文

Chinese version: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/zgrbjx/2012-05/16/content_15310256.htm

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