Last month the southern African country of Angola celebrated one year without a new case of polio, moving the world one step closer to total eradication of the virus that has an estimated 10 to 20 million survivors worldwide. Spurred on by Angola’s achievement and Bill Gates’ global clout, world leaders vowed last week to end polio for good by 2018 in the three countries where it remains entrenched: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is part of this response. It funds national Societies’ community-based work during polio immunization days and local volunteers bring the global polio eradication campaign into homes and classrooms in some of the world’s most remote communities. For polio eradication campaigns to be successful, more than 95 per cent of children under the age of 5 must be fully vaccinated, a huge undertaking that wouldn’t be possible without the participation of volunteers and community members in affected regions.
Communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan are doubly impacted by ongoing conflict, which has prevented many kids from receiving their vaccines. The International Committee of the Red Cross plays an important role there, carrying out door-to-door immunization campaigns and facilitating vaccination for all children.