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The World is Three Countries Away From Being Polio-Free: WHO

The wild polio virus is present in parts of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, which are under the control of Boko Haram militants.

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A boy receives polio vaccination drops during an anti-polio campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

As another World Polio Day comes around, the World Health Organization reports three polio endemic countries— Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria — hold the key to the global eradication of this crippling disease.

About one-half million children were becoming paralyzed by polio every year when the World Health Organization began its global polio eradication campaign three decades ago. Today, that number has been reduced by more than 99 percent.

WHO reports fewer than 30 cases of the disease this year, many of them in countries that had been considered polio-free. Spokesman for the Polio Eradication Initiative Oliver Rosenbauer tells VOA outbreaks have occurred in Niger, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea.

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There’s an exciting new breakthrough in treating some types of deadly brain tumors, that uses, of all things, a polio virus. Doctors at Duke Health in North Carolina genetically altered the virus because it produces such a strong immune response in our bodies. Flickr

“This really, really underscores the risk that we have this disease — that it will continue to reappear, reemerge in areas that have already eradicated this disease. We see this time and again,” said Rosenbauer. “It is not the first time that we are facing new outbreaks again and we are confident, we know what it takes to stop these outbreaks again.”

Rosenbauer says these countries are implementing emergency measures to stop the outbreak. But, he warns the risk of the wild polio virus spreading across borders will continue until the disease is eradicated in the three endemic states of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

“These three countries hold the key to a polio-free world,” said Rosenbauer. “They have been battling this disease so very long, but they are making actually tremendous progress this year. Never before have we seen the disease in these countries at such low levels as we are today, this year.”

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Widespread unrest in Afghanistan has kept thousands of children from receiving polio vaccines this year. Conflict in northern Nigeria does the same. VOA

Rosenbauer says Afghanistan and Pakistan have each reported six cases of this disease.

He says no cases of the paralytic disease have been detected in Nigeria. But that, he says, does not mean there are no new cases of the disease there.

Also Read: Ebola Not A Global Health Emergency: WHO

He notes the wild virus is present in parts of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria, which are under the control of Boko Haram militants. This, he says makes it too dangerous for health workers to conduct disease surveillance to see whether the virus is circulating. (VOA)

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China Excludes Taiwan from Participation in World Health Assembly

WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million

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Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, May 20, 2019. VOA

Taiwan is protesting China’s decision to exclude the island from participation in the annual World Health Assembly, calling such action an unjustified political move that could harm global health.

The 72nd session of the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly takes place May 20-28 in Geneva, Switzerland.

This move is particularly ironic this year, as the theme of the assembly is universal health coverage. Taiwan’s national health system is widely considered one of the best in the world.Taiwan’s minister of health and welfare, Chen Shih-chung, says the island is ready to share its experiences on how to achieve affordable, efficient universal health coverage with the global community.

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FILE – Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s minister of Health and Welfare, is interviewed by Reuters ahead of the World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization in Geneva, May 20, 2017. VOA

“However, under pressure from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is currently excluded by WHO from the global health network,” Chen said. “Inviting Taiwan to participate in the WHA would be consistent with WHO’s espousal of health for all.”

The health minister notes Taiwan’s exclusion poses health risks to everyone. Chen says diseases do not stop at borders, and international cooperation is needed to combat epidemics that could spread to every corner of the world.

Chen tells VOA he has written several letters to WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to protest Taiwan’s exclusion from the World Health Assembly. Chen says he has received no response. He says WHO has even rejected Taiwan’s offer for help in combating the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

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WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million. Wikimedia Commons

“Our president announced we would donate $1 million U.S. to combat Ebola; but this donation, even this donation was not accepted by the WHO. So, this is a pity in our situation. We want to do something, but WHO did not accept us to do something for the world,” Chen said.

ALSO READ: Washington Becomes First State to Approve Composting of Human Remains

WHO estimates it needs $98 million to run its Ebola operation. It is facing a funding shortfall of some $63 million.

Despite pressure from China, Taiwan’s officials say they have received support for their bid to join the WHO from a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia. (VOA)