[ SkipToMainMenu ]

Polio Eradication

Honourable senators, polio is a disease that has disappeared from our collective consciousness, and with good reason. Since the introduction of a polio vaccine in 1955, Canada has been relatively free of the disease. Worldwide, cases of polio have declined from 380,000 in 1988 to 223 cases in 2012.

Polio, however, has not completely disappeared. It is still endemic in three countries — Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Research shows that if we try to contain this disease, rather than eradicate it, polio will return to paralyzing 200,000 people a year.

I recently invited The End of Polio campaign to the Hill on behalf of the Canada-Pakistan Friendship Group. We were joined by Akbar Zeb, High Commissioner of Pakistan, and Minister Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation.

Presently, there are six districts infected with polio in Pakistan. The disease is especially persistent in my home province of Khyber Pukthunkwa and within the ethnic Pukhtun population. Eighty per cent of post-infection paralysis cases involve individuals of Pukhtun ethnicity.

In 2013, there have already been reported six cases of polio in Pakistan. A majority of the cases exist in remote and hard-to- reach areas. Forty per cent of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where most Pukhtuns live, are not accessible. Polio eradication workers face risks to their lives and have been targeted and killed in senseless attacks.

Canada has been a global leader on polio eradication, disbursing $348 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since 2000. At the Global Vaccine Summit in late April, our government announced a further commitment of $250 million over the next six years.

We have also partnered with the Rotary clubs across Canada in raising more than $2 million, an amount that was matched dollar- for-dollar by the government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Honourable senators, we are very close to eradicating polio by 2018. If we do so, it would be the second time in history that a human disease is wiped from the globe.