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The last 6 countries in the world still attempting to eradicate polio have announced plans to immunize 250 million children more than once in 2004. Ministers meeting at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters signed a declaration that aims to eliminate the final "reservoirs" of the disease.
Polio is considered an epidemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Niger, and Egypt. The purpose of the multiple immunization campaigns is to ensure that no children are missed, as well as to immunize newborns. Only 677 cases of polio were reported worldwide in 2003. India?s Health Minister Sushma Swaraj said that preliminary data indicated an 84% reduction in polio cases in 2003, compared with 2002. The same cannot be said for Nigeria, where the polio problem is increasing.
If polio is not wiped out this year, it could spread, because children in many countries free of the disease are no longer immunized, WHO officials warned. When WHO and other organizations launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988, the disease affected 125 countries. It has since been eradicated in Europe, the United States, much of Asia, and Australia. The initiative?s goal is to eliminate polio globally by 2005.