WHO urges world to redouble efforts to eradicate polio

The World Health Organization commemorated World Polio Day on Thursday and urged the international community to redouble efforts to eradicate the potentially deadly disease.

World Polio Day is observed on October 24 each year, a day that marks the birth of Jonas Salk, the virologist who led the team that invented a polio vaccine in 1955. The WHO warned that while the world is closer than ever to eradicating the disease, children continue to be at risk in certain areas, including the Horn of Africa and Syria.

"This is no time for complacency, and efforts must be redoubled to ensure this disease is eradicated once and for all," the WHO said. "World Polio Day marks the perfect opportunity to remind us of this fact."

Ali Al-Za'tari, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, welcomed on Thursday the official confirmation that the government agreed to a polio vaccination campaign. The campaign will take place in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile states which were cut off since a military conflict started in 2011.

"Sudan's future lies in the health of its children," Al-Za'tari said. "This is an opportunity for all parties to put children's health before politics and ensure that this campaign goes ahead without delay."

The two week campaign will begin on November 5.

While Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the last three endemic polio countries, the WHO received reports on October 17 of a cluster of acute flaccid paralysis cases in Syria. Syria had not experienced a case of polio since 1999. An urgent response is now being planned throughout the country.