Government of Canada

Global Affairs Canada

World Polio Day

October 24, 2012

Dubbed the "Great Crippler", polio is a viral infectious disease that can paralyze its victims, most of whom are children.

Since the introduction of vaccines in the 1950s, the international community has made significant progress in tracking and eradicating this disease.

In 1985, polio infected approximately 350,000 children in more than 125 countries. Today, it remains endemic in just three countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan—and only in small pockets.

Last February, India, which had 50 percent of the world's polio cases just a few years ago, had a watershed moment when it was removed from the list of infected countries after going a year without a single new diagnosed case.

This is due in large part to international efforts such as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Canada was the first country to donate to this initiative when it was launched in 1988. Since then, CIDA has been a key player in supporting the global effort to reach the most vulnerable children.

For example, in Afghanistan, where Canada has been the single largest donor to polio eradication, the virus is now largely constrained to the south of the country. CIDA's support has allowed more than 7 million Afghan children to continue to be vaccinated against the disease.

Every Canadian should be proud of Canada's contributions to fight this disease worldwide.

Last month, in New York, I was pleased to reaffirm Canada's commitment to eradicating polio and announce CIDA's collaboration with Rotary Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on "Pennies and More for Polio."

Under the "Pennies and More for Polio initiative," CIDA will match every dollar raised by Rotary Canada up to a maximum of $1 million. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide funds of equal value, resulting in a collaborative commitment of $3 million to be provided to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

We all know that even if one child remains infected, all children will be at risk. The world is so close to eradicating this disease: let's not give it any breathing space to survive.

Getting rid of a disease may be expensive, but our investment in eradicating polio will pay for itself many times over. It will save the lives of countless children, help lift families out of poverty, and pave the way for stronger health systems in developing countries.

Julian Fantino
Minister of International Cooperation