week #40 help eradicate disease

healthI know this week’s ‘small change’ sounds like a BIG change. Yes, the issue of disease worldwide is substantial. 22,000 children die everyday from hunger and diseases that we know how to prevent an cure. Why? Why are these children still dying when we possess the solutions? The sad reality is that we become complacent and we write it off as someone else’s problem. It’s not. I was in a room with 80 people last month and the question was asked, ‘Who here has suffered from malaria?’ Malaria can often feel like a disease that is exotic, distant. About 6 people put up their hands. We are all susceptible to illness. Those reading this are likely to have access to an array of medical treatments and facilities but this is not the reality for millions of people right now.

Yet there is good news. Thanks to global efforts we have eradicated Smallpox; Diptheria is down by 93%; in just 10 years we have cut measles deaths by 93% in Africa; and tetanus levels are down 85%. Now, for only the second time in history, we have the opportunity to completely eradicate a debilitating disease. Since 1988 Polio cases have been reduced by 99% leaving overall case numbers at historic lows, with less than half the number of cases reported this year than last year. We are down to only three countries that have never stopped transmission. It is a huge achievement, and leaves beyond doubt that a polio-free world is now within very close reach.

But this progress is under threat. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is currently facing a massive funding gap of more than US$ 1 billion over two years for their Emergency Action Plan. Already, polio vaccination campaigns have been cut back in 24 countries as the result of this funding shortfall.

We simply cannot sit back and allow Polio to make a slow and steady comeback. This is not just about those who are unable to afford vaccinations; this affects us all. I am not a doctor and I am no politician but I do have a voice. And there is something that I can do to support the efforts to get the disease totally eradicated, once and for all. This short video summarises the story so far and, as you will see, there is a part that we can all play.

One week from now, health ministers from around the world will vote on this very matter. By signing this letter I can show my support for the global community to set forth a plan to save more than 20 million lives by 2020 through the provision of vaccines and to declare polio eradication a global emergency. Today, take one small step for mankind…

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