U.N.'s Ban Ki-Moon calls for polio eradication support

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon recently urged nations participating in the upcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva to deliver on their promise to eradicate polio.

Ban called the effort to eliminate polio as ambitious as the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox. He said that the illness only survives in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"But there is a looming danger that we could fall victim to our own success," Ban said, the Los Angeles Times reports. "The world is now populated by a generation that for the most part has never been exposed to polio. Additionally, many in this generation have been inadequately vaccinated. When the virus strikes under those conditions, the impact can be devastating."

The secretary-general said that only a prompt international response halted the 2010 outbreak in the Republic of Congo and elsewhere in Africa. The outbreak killed half of those who contracted the virus. Ban said the incident gave an idea of the potential consequences of failing to eradicate the virus while the opportunity still exists.

"U.N. epidemiologists warn that a renewed outbreak could cripple as many as one million people within the decade, many of them children," Ban said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ban called for more resources to be allocated to the fight against polio. He said the Global Polio Eradication Initiative only has half of the $2 billion it requires to obtain vaccines and staff to be sent to the last outposts where the disease remains.

"This week, the world's health ministers will declare a global public health emergency and call on the world to respond to the threat of a resurgent polio," Ban said, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Let's heed those calls, so we can make the threat of polio a distant and fading memory."