Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, can be prevented with a vaccine that costs only $0.50. In the 1980s, polio paralyzed at least 1,000 children every day all over the world, but after international efforts to immunize every child everywhere, 5 million people are walking who would otherwise be paralyzed.
Today, the world stands at the threshold of being polio-free — approximately 2,000 cases were recorded in 2007, down from 350,000 cases just 15 years ago. But a global funding shortfall for immunization activities through 2009 threatens to derail the effort. Each new case of polio is another child afflicted, and another threat to the dream of a world without polio.
The success is the result of an improved vaccine and the intense efforts over the past several years by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership that includes Rotary International, the UN Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Since its inception in 1988, the Initiative has protected 2 billion children from polio and, globally, the number of polio cases has dropped by 99 percent.