Statement by Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, on World Polio Day
"World Polio Day is a stirring reminder of all that we have achieved together in the fight against polio. There is much to celebrate. Fewer children than ever before suffer the debilitating effects of this cruel disease. For the first time in its history, this year, India was declared polio free. We can see before us the finish line: the eradication of polio.
But World Polio Day is also a sobering reminder that, as in many long distance races, the last mile is the hardest one. Children in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – the three remaining polio-endemic countries – are still affected by the ravages of this virus. And it is the children in the hardest to reach areas of these and other countries that are most at risk: children with disabilities, the impoverished, and those living in conflict zones or remote areas.
India's example shows us we can reach them. And we will reach them – by working together.
In September at the UN General Assembly, the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, as well as government donors, civil society and the private sector all reconfirmed their commitment to rid the world of polio. And out in the field, courageous health workers – the real heroes of this effort – risk their lives every day to seek out and immunise children, often at great personal risk.
We have come so far together in the fight to end polio. We have the means to finish the job. We can make history. Or we can fail to seize the moment. Lest history judge us harshly, let a polio-free world be our legacy to the next generation of children."
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UNICEF is the world's leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk.