Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organization, provided an update of efforts to combat polio on Monday at an informal high-level meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
Chan expressed optimism at efforts to eradicate polio worldwide in the wake of Bangladesh, Indonesia and India remaining polio free. The WHO declared its Southeast Asia region to be free of polio in March, a milestone that Chan said meant 80 percent of the world's population now lives in countries without the disease.
"This tells the world: there is no such thing as impossible," Chan said.
The director-general said that Pakistan is the greatest challenge to ending polio worldwide. Chan drew attention to data showing that nine of out every 10 children paralyzed by polio globally live in Pakistan. That figure translates into 166 of this year's global total of 178 polio cases.
"Think about it," Chan said. "These figures are dramatic."
Chan noted improvements made in Pakistan over the past year, including improved vaccination efforts and less security incidents during vaccination campaigns. She also noted progress in Nigeria and the Middle East, while highlighting Cameroon as a country where too many children have been missed by vaccination campaigns.