The Australian and Pakistan cricket teams dedicated the second day of the Lahore Test to honouring heroic polio workers and survivors, a rare show of unity between the rival nations that proved “some things are more important than a bat and a ball.” 

The Pakistan Polio Programme and Pakistan Cricket Board partnered on March 22 to fill the stadium with posters and banners about the deadly disease and the importance of vaccination. Various awareness-raising activities were also held, and players recorded videos calling on parents to immunise their children.

The match, played on Pakistani soil for the first time in 24 years, was free for all polio workers and survivors. 

"Cricketers, as national heroes, are role models for the children and youth of Pakistan,” Shahzad Baig, the coordinator of the National Emergency Operations Centre for Polio Eradication, said in a statement. “I am so pleased and proud they are supporting the national mission of polio eradication and hope that their message will reach some of the country's hard to reach areas.” 

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only nations where polio remains endemic. 

However, Pakistan — home to 220 million people — hasn’t recorded a wild poliovirus case since early January last year, marking the first time since recording began that an entire year has passed without a wild polio case in the South Asian nation.

Three consecutive years without a single polio recording must occur before a nation can officially be declared polio-free. 

This year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — the world’s leading polio-eradication partnership — will host a replenishment event in an effort to meet the projected US$4.2 billion required to continue its life-saving work over the next year. 

While global cases of the highly infectious disease have declined by more than 99% since 1988, all people remain at risk when the virus persists anywhere in the world. Through routine immunisation, GPEI has ensured 18 million people can walk today who would otherwise have been paralysed. 

The governments of both Australia and Pakistan have long supported the initiative.

In 2019, the Australian Government pledged AU$15 million to GPEI, while Pakistan committed US$160 million.


Defeat Poverty

Australia and Pakistan Cricket Teams Unite for Polio Eradication

By Madeleine Keck