Dr David Nabarro, candidate to be the next Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), has spoken today about his commitment to completely eradicating polio and Guinea worm within five years.
Thanks to the efforts of governments and partners like the Carter Center, the geographic range of Guinea worm has been dramatically reduced over the last two decades: fewer than 25 cases were recorded worldwide in 2015. Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to 37 reported cases in 2016. The WHO should continue to support governments to end polio and Guinea worm for good.
Dr David Nabarro said:
When it comes to disease eradication, we know the last part is always the toughest. But under the right leadership, I think in the foreseeable future we can eliminate some of the diseases which have challenged nations across the world.
As Director-General I will work tirelessly with WHO’s partners including the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The Carter Center to support countries to end the suffering of Guinea worm and polio once and for all. While recent reports of wild polio were disheartening, we must remain resilient and motivated as we are closer than ever to confining polio to the history books.
And let’s be ambitious: I have fought and will continue to fight passionately to make the vision of a Malaria free world a reality within a generation. I believe that the next few years can be an era of real focus on disease eradication and the WHO has an essential role in this.
In addition to eradicating to polio and Guinea worm in the next five years, Dr Nabarro is clear that the WHO must also remain focused on reducing the suffering from other diseases such as HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. National health systems must be supported to ensure that they are resilient and the WHO itself needs to be ready to respond swiftly to emerging and re-emerging disease outbreaks such as Ebola, Zika , Dengue and Yellow Fever.
Malaria too is still a major challenge and there is more to do, but encouraging progress has been made since the 1990s — when a million people a year died from this disease.
With his vast experience overseeing global health responses Dr Nabarro is uniquely positioned to lead the charge against infectious diseases. In 1999 he led the multi-country initiative to Roll Back Malaria as well as being a key player in the creation of the Global Fund to end AIDS, malaria and Tuberculosis. Then, when Ebola struck West Africa in 2014 and the WHO was struggling to cope, the United Nations called on Dr Nabarro.
Dr David Nabarro said:
Infectious diseases do not respect borders and Ebola in particular showed us the threat they pose to global health security. With the world in the midst of a migration crisis, the WHO and countries must react swiftly and effectively when rumours of an outbreak arise.
A key element to this will be the development of effective and affordable vaccines. Working alongside alliances like GAVI, governments can help ensure the most vulnerable, particularly children in impoverished communities, are immunized against killer diseases like Yellow Fever.
The WHO must work with countries, scientists and the pharmaceutical industry to support the cutting edge innovation, ensuring that vaccines, drugs and other products are affordable and accessible to all of those that need them. This can include tiered pricing, market entry premiums and increasing efforts to get rid of counterfeit medicines.
The WHO must set standards in infectious disease response to ensure that everyone everywhere has access to the latest advice, prevention methods and treatment.
Speaking about Dr Nabarro’s vast experience tackling infectious disease, former Director of Operations UNMEER Sierra Leone, Paul Shewry said:
I worked with David during the Ebola crisis and found his confident, capable leadership, knowledge and tireless activity inspiring.
He has the ability to communicate at all levels - to both senior politicians and health workers on the ground - and can bring order to complex situations and unify support. He will be an extremely effective Director-General.