The Global Polio Eradication Initative was launched in 1988 in response to a World Health Assembly resolution to eradicate polio. While the resolution was led by member states, the initative is spearheaded by four primary partners --- the World Health Organization, Rotary International, UNICEF, and the CDC. In recent years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has also taken on a growing role. The World Health Assembly continues to issue the resolutions that dictate the scope and strategy of the initiative while the implementation is handled largely by the spearheading members.
Such a division of labor and contribution is not unusual. The World Health Organization, like other international organizations have limited budgets comprised of member contributions. Increasingly, member contributions are earmarked --- meaning that member states select programs to fund, constraining the organization's ability to fund other programs. As a result, contributions by Rotary International and the Gate Foundation have become essential to meeting the budgetary needs of programs like the Global Polio Eradication Iniative.
Since 1988 more than 2.5 billion children have recieved polio vaccinations and the Initiatve has produced many hopeful milestones. For example, only one of the three types of wild polio virus remains endemic. a case of type 2 wild polio was last reported in 1999, and the last reported case of type 3 was in 2012. Likewise, in 2012, India --- widely regarded as the country facing the greatest obstacles to polio eradication --- was removed from the list of endemic countries.
There have, of course, been setbacks as well. Conflict, political instability, and damaged health infrastructure led to an outbreak of polio in Syria, which spread to Iraq, in 2013. Syria had been polio free since the 1990s. Likewise, polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan have met with resistance and have been the targets of violence. In Febrauary, four workers in southwest Pakistan were kidnapped and murdered. Continuing conflict and a growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen has also threatened eradication efforts. However, in July, all sides agreed to a humanitarian pause, during which 50,000 children were vaccianted for polio and other vaccine preventable diseases.
Despite these setbacks, decreasing infections rates and Nigeria's recent success should leave us optimistic. Although eradication efforts have been slow and difficult, the eventual success will hopefull encourage greater global cooperation and coordination on disease control and global health.