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Times of India
21 July 2011
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) on Wednesday admitted that the global plan to stop polio transmission by 2012 is "at risk".

Though the progress made by India – one of the four main countries still home to the crippling virus was termed as "exciting" – the persistent transmission of polio worldwide is being called a "global health emergency". The warning from IMB is chilling: the disease will resurge, if it is not completely eradicated.

According to IMB, the fight against polio is being hampered by a $590–million funding gap coupled with weak political leadership in some countries and persistent problems in the quality of key polio vaccination campaigns.

Though worldwide cases of polio have been brought down by 99% – from 350,000 in 1988 when the GPEI was founded to around 1,000 cases in 2010 – the target to eradicate it by 2012 might be elusive. The IMB said, "India is on track to interrupt polio by end of 2011. While the country is now entering the traditional high season of polio transmission the scale of its response has been immense."

The main concerns are two countries – Nigeria, and Pakistan. About Nigeria, it says, "Nigeria made good progress in 2010, cutting polio cases by 95%. However, political commitment waned during this year’s election campaigns, with the result that there were five times as many cases in the first half of 2011 as there were in 2010." The committee said, "Pakistan has seen 54 polio cases so far this year, double the number recorded in the first half of 2011, and risks becoming the last global outpost of this vicious disease."

The IMB’s report calls on rich donor nations to close the funding gap, and "finish the job" on polio. India saw a 94% decline in polio cases in 2010, giving it a real chance to finally eradicate the crippling disease.

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