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U.S., Russia Partner to Eradicate Polio Around the World

Article / Review by on January 27, 2011 – 4:02 pmNo Comments

U.S., Russia Partner to Eradicate Polio Around the World

Washington, DC – On January 27th, the U.S. government and the government of the Russian Federation, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Ministry of Health and Social Development of the Russian Federation (MOHSD), signed a Protocol of Intent on Cooperation for the Global Eradication of Polio.

This historical image, which depicts workers creating a billboard in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, shows one of the communication modes, the billboard, used to promote public health awareness, in this case, polio vaccinations within a community. The billboard, as well as television, magazines, and pamphlets, are only some of the myriad of modalities implemented when information of this kind is disseminated throughout society, and across cultural barriers. In the early 1950's, there were more than 20,000 cases of polio each year. After polio vaccination began in 1955, cases dropped significantly. Public health officials used every communications media available to promote the vaccination. By 1960, the number of polio cases dropped to about 3,000, and by 1979 there were only about 10.

Building upon the foundation of partnership and cooperation established in the Obama Administration “reset” with Russia, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, HHS Director of Global Health Affairs Nils Daulaire, and Russian Deputy Minister of Health Veronika Skvortsova signed the Protocol of Intent to deepen cooperation on polio eradication while in Geneva, Switzerland to attend other meetings.

Signing the Protocol of Intent on behalf of USAID, Administrator Shah said: “I am excited by the potentially huge impact that we can have when combining our countries’ respective talent and expertise to overcome our world’s development challenges.”

The WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Rotary International, and the United Nations Children’s Fund launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988.  The Initiative has formed partnerships with host governments and the public and private sector to successfully achieve a 99% reduction in polio worldwide since its inception.  However, recent years have seen polio outbreaks in Central Asia with several new cases also reported in Russia.  The disease is highly infectious and mainly affects children under the age of five.  One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis and among those paralyzed, 5-10% die. If left unaddressed, polio threatens to return to pre-eradication levels in the hundreds of thousands each year.

“The global eradication of polio is a public health priority for HHS and USAID and for their international partners, including Russia.  Ridding the world of this preventable disease will dramatically reduce the global burden of disability and death from polio, especially among the world’s children,” said Dr. Nils Daulaire.  “We are pleased to have this opportunity to strengthen our partnership with our Russian colleagues to work towards a world without polio.”

The Protocol of Intent between the U.S. and Russia outlines a globally-based partnership on polio eradication between USAID, HHS, CDC, and MOHSD, using their expertise in coordination with the GPEI strategy to accelerate polio eradication.  Potential collaborative efforts may include disease surveillance, support for immunization campaigns, technical assistance, advocacy efforts, and additional areas for potential partnership.  This agreement builds upon previous successful U.S.-Russian cooperation on global health, including work together on HIV/AIDS in several countries in Africa.

Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith remarked that “we’re now closer than ever to eradicating the disease, and together, the support of these governments and others will make the difference in this final push.”

* The above story is reprinted from materials provided by USA Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
** More information at USA Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)


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