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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs > Official Travel to the Region > 2004

HHS Secretary Thompson's Travel to South Asia

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson has traveled to three of the six nations which remain polio endemic: India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. On April 8, he stressed the need for the United States to continue to partner with committed national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International.

"This truly is a global effort," said Secretary Thompson. "The United States is proud to be working toward this noble goal with our public and private partners around the world."

Polio cases have declined dramatically since 1988, when countries from around the world came together to establish the goal of complete polio eradication. At that time, wild poliovirus was endemic in more than 125 countries on five continents and paralyzed nearly 1,000 children every day.

Over the last 15 years, polio cases have been reduced by more than 99 percent worldwide, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to only 784 cases reported in 2003.

HHS' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is seeking to certify the global eradication of polio. Over the last 15 years, the Initiative has invested more than $3 billion and engaged more than 200 countries around the world in the fight against polio.

HHS has contributed significant resources to this global effort, with HHS funds supporting programs such as the Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) program. At the invitation of UNICEF, WHO, and host countries, STOP trains and sends qualified public health professionals as volunteers to conduct polio surveillance in developing countries. STOP team members also work with Ministries of Health at the field level to help plan, implement, and evaluate countries' National Immunization Days (NIDs), during which children are immunized against polio. Since it began in 1999, STOP has deployed 516 health professionals to 53 countries.

In addition to the STOP program, HHS is providing significant financial and technical support to countries affected by polio. The CDC laboratory provides technical support to the eradication campaign, including detailed wild poliovirus sequencing data for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, the CDC laboratory also serves as the back-up laboratory for both countries.

India is the highest strategic priority for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative because of its population, size, and global stature. After suffering the largest polio epidemic in recent history --1600 cases in 2002 -- India has made tremendous progress within the last 12 months and is now close to eradicating the disease. The country has reported only 225 cases of polio in 2003 and only eight cases thus far in 2004.

Remarks by Secretary Thompson
2004/04/09:  Remarks To The Press in India
2004/04/07: Joint Press Conference in Pakistan


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