Bulletin of the World Health Organization

The human qualities needed to complete the global eradication of polio

Dermot Maher

Although the 99% decrease seen in global polio incidence between 1988 and 2000 represented remarkable progress towards polio eradication, tackling the last 1% of polio has proved tantalizingly difficult. Pockets of endemic transmission currently persist both on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and in northern Nigeria. These pockets have permitted the reinfection of countries that were previously polio-free. Global strategic plans for polio eradication set out the activities, resources and financing needed to overcome the managerial, technical and security challenges faced by those tasked with the interruption of poliovirus transmission. However, polio eradication also depends on the less tangible but equally important human qualities of energy, realism, articulacy, determination, imagination, collaboration, adaptability, tactical awareness, innovation, openness and nimbleness (the initial letters of which give the acronym “ERADICATION”). By paying attention to these human qualities, the stakeholders involved may be more likely to achieve global polio eradication.

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