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The global community is painstakingly close to eradicating polio. Increases in vaccinations have spared the lives of more than 10 million people worldwide. Polio, a disease which used to claim the lives of up to 500,000 people a year, is almost gone. Its eradication would be a crucial milestone in transforming global health and demonstrating the effectiveness of collective action.

Global collective efforts have brought together UN agencies, governments, foundations, private businesses, and individuals to combat this disease. Worldwide, the number of recorded cases last year fell to an all-time-low of 223. There are only three countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.

These countries are susceptible to polio because of the fringe communities such as nomads, migrant workers, and displaced populations. People are much more likely to contract polio in areas of conflict and insecurity. In order to eradicate polio, vaccines must be delivered to the most marginalized of our society. This requires belief that every person has equal worth.

If the global community is not careful, and do not maintain its commitment to vaccinations and eradication, the World Health Organization has warned that the disease could break out again, reversing the last few decades of progress. This caveat has motivated UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to intensify efforts to eliminate the disease.

This ambition has lead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to develop a six year strategy requiring countries where polio remains, to step up their efforts to vaccinate all children. Additionally, they are pressuring over 100 other countries to refine their polio immunization programs to ensure all children have access to the vaccines.

Kofi Annan has been urging the international community to provide the necessary funding to make vaccinations for marginalized and hard to reach children possible. The Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi this week implores partners and philanthropists to dig deep to support increased access to polio vaccinations.

It is vital that people understand that vaccinations improve overall health and drive development. Additionally, there are impressive financial benefits to eradicating polio – in the sum of an estimated $40 billion or more – with most of them accruing in the world’s poorest countries. Success of this nature begs the question: what do we, the global community, have to lose?

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: Guardian

Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General
Kofi Annan was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations preceding the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. In a recent town hall-style discussion at Yale University, reports Jim Shelton of the New Haven Register, the former U.N. official reflected on his tenure, during which he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for his work in advocating on the issue of HIV/AIDS and other global issues. Annan also expressed his support for reforming the U.N.

He stressed that reform was necessary both in expanding the membership of the U.N Security Council, which has five permanent and ten non-permanent members, and addressing the issue of global poverty, which is one of the Millennium Development Goals due to be re-examined in 2015.

Annan’s most recent and well-known diplomacy role has been as the U.N.’s envoy to the Arab League during the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2012. Annan’s frustration with the inaction of the U.N. in addressing the issue famously led him not to renew his contract for the position of envoy in August 2012.

Annan said the U.S. and Russia must lead the way in shaping international consensus on a solution in Syria. Otherwise, a “chaotic collapse” there may lead to ethnic cleansing and ever greater global tension,” writes Shelton.

Kofi Annan’s urging towards effective diplomatic action is a rallying cry for nations to help assuage the mounting violence in Syria. With all the respect garnered through his long history of international diplomacy, we can only hope that Annan’s colleagues in the U.N. heed his advice.

– Nina Narang

Sources: New Haven Register, United Nations, BBC
Photo: The Elders