Closing remarks of Dr Michael O'Leary, WHO Representative in China, at the 18th Meeting of the Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication in the Western Pacific Region
Distinguished members of the Regional Certification Commission, chairpersons of the National Certification Committees, representatives of the China Ministry of Health, The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, both from national and provincial levels, representatives of partner agencies, special advisors, colleagues from the different WHO offices, ladies and gentlemen,
I am pleased to make a few closing remarks on behalf of the WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo. He could not be here due to previous commitment, but sends his warmest regards.
Eliminating polio from this Region, being certified polio-free and keeping the status for over a decade are among our great public health achievements. We received a serious threat last year though when wild poliovirus from Pakistan began paralysing children and adults in Western China. But the country was prepared, and the immediate and comprehensive response — in which many of you played a critical role — turned crisis into testimonial for preparedness.
The successful outbreak control was fully recognized in this meeting, and I congratulate the Government of China for retaining its polio-free certification status.
China’s response to the polio outbreak is an inspiration to all countries in the Western Pacific to double efforts to have high-quality surveillance and immunization in place.
It is an encouragement to places that are not yet polio-free that they can conquer this dreadful disease with the right commitment, coordination and accountability.
I also want to congratulate all the other countries in the Region for having stayed polio-free, as confirmed by the Regional Certification Commission. While there are some performance gaps, the effort and commitment it takes to successfully run a programme for a disease gone for a long time should be acknowledged.
Our polio eradication journey began nearly 25 years ago and has been much longer and faced more stumbling blocks than we expected. We have passed through periods of doubt but ultimately the global community did not give up as most recently witnessed by the World Health Assembly in its resolution WHA 65.5.
We are encouraged by the fact that the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, have successfully stopped polio transmission.
In 2012, there are only three endemic countries left. Polio is more tightly confined than ever before, with 175 cases so far this year in just 94 districts in four countries.
Thus, I believe, the programme has never been in a better position to finish the job.
I would like to thank once more the Government of China for kindly providing the opportunity to hold the meeting here in Beijing. Their warm welcome and generous hospitality are very much appreciated.
I would also like to take this opportunity to again extend my gratitude to all other ministries of health —and those who continue to participate in polio eradication activities —for their commitment and dedication. This includes our international partners, namely Rotary International, UNICEF, the governments of Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America through their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their continued support remains essential.
Finally, I would like to thank our office bearers — Professor Tony Adams as Chairperson, Dr Nobuhiko Okabe as Vice-Chairperson and Dr Aida Salonga as Rapporteur— for their efficient guidance and support during this meeting.
I wish you a safe journey home and continued success in your work.