Polio | UNICEF USA
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Pakistan
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Eradication is within reach

Thanks to the efforts of UNICEF and partners, polio has almost — but not quite — disappeared. Since UNICEF joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, polio cases have gone down 99.9 percent.

Children under 5 are particularly vulnerable to this highly infectious, crippling and sometimes fatal disease. And polio is known to resurface in countries in conflict, where health systems are disrupted, allowing routine immunizations to lapse. Continued support for vaccinations remains vital.

Women are critical in the fight against polio. From reaching every child with polio vaccines to ensuring their children receive the protection they deserve, women are at the heart of polio eradication efforts.

What is polio?

Polio is practically unheard of in many high-wealth countries, though older citizens carry memories of children enclosed in iron lungs to help them breathe or of survivors who experienced permanent mobility impairment.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system and can cause paralysis in the legs and weakness in the head, neck and diaphragm. It is spread primarily through fecal contamination, often through food or water.

Where is polio?

There are three strains of poliovirus. Africa has eradicated the wild poliovirus, but another strain of polio continues to spread across multiple countries, causing dozens of cases of paralysis in unimmunized children.

Polio may be invisible in wealthy countries where once upon a time it touched the lives of everyone. But the disease persists in poor nations, where providing a series of immunizations can be challenging, and where the youngest and most vulnerable are the ones who suffer most.