Many Canadians are old enough to remember the horror of polio from our childhoods. In the 1950s and 60s, polio killed thousands of children and left countless others living in iron lungs or with lifelong paralysis.
With the development of effective vaccines, we thought we had seen the end of this terrible disease. We were wrong.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently predicted a global polio emergency in Pakistan within three months. In 2011, 73 new cases were reported there, nearly equal to all the cases in the previous five years.
Polio is now 99 per cent eradicated globally, but without immediate action, the number of children paralyzed each year is expected rise to 200,000 in a decade. Canada contributes $35 million annually towards global polio eradication, but our spending is set to decline to just $5 million in 2014. Prime Minister Harper has been invited by the United Nations to co-convene a meeting on polio this week. It is crucial that he recommit to our earlier funding.