Polio in developing countries

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is one of the world’s most enduring diseases.

It is highly contagious and tends to target children younger than five years of age. Polio attacks a person’s nervous system and causes paralysis in one out of every 200 cases. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

The disease spreads from person to person most often through contact with the feces of an infected person or by ingesting contaminated water and food. People who live in communities with poor hygiene and sanitation conditions have an elevated risk of infection.

Before a polio vaccine was introduced in 1955, the disease was prevalent in Canada and affected thousands of children. Canada is now polio-free.

The race to eradicate polio by 2019

The goal of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) is to eradicate polio by 2019. It is a partnership between:

Since its establishment in 1988, the GPEI has achieved significant results.

The number of polio cases has been reduced by 99.99 %. This is a drop from an estimated 350,000 cases per year in more than 125 countries, down to 37 cases in 2016 in the final three remaining endemic countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria).

The type 2 strain of wild poliovirus was officially certified as eradicated in 2015, leaving two strains of wild poliovirus remaining.

Despite the strong progress towards eradicating the disease, there is still difficulty in interrupting poliovirus transmission in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. This demonstrates the importance of providing adequate surveillance, high levels of immunization coverage and the ability to respond quickly to outbreaks.

A plan to eliminate polio

The road map to eradicate polio by 2019 has four key objectives:

What is Canada doing to help contain polio?

Canada was the first bilateral donor to the GPEI and has disbursed over CAD $600M since 2000. In October 2016, Canada fulfilled its $250 million commitment to the GPEI Endgame Strategy made at the 2013 Global Vaccine Summit. This global support has helped ensure that:


Canada, as a leading bilateral donor to the Polio Eradication Program in Afghanistan, provides support to UNICEF and WHO to help more children become protected by increasing national polio vaccination coverage and assisting those most vulnerable to infection.


We support the WHO to increase coverage of polio vaccinations in Nigeria. This is an initiative that supports polio supplemental immunization activities in high-risk states and intensifies routine immunization in select Local Government Areas.


Canada supports the WHO and UNICEF to stop transmission of the poliovirus in Pakistan. The program focuses on:

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