Polio, a waterborne and paralyzing virus, is 99.9% eradicated. As recently as the 1980s, there were well over 300,000 cases a year. But amazingly as of last year, there were only 37 reported cases — which means 16 million people are walking today who would not have been.
Yet, even with such great progress, outbreaks are always just around the corner. Such as the one in Nigeria that emerged in Boko Haram-held territory in 2015. Or most recently, the cases reported in Afghanistan this year— and just this month in Syria.
The only way to tackle the disease’s relentless ability to reemerge, paralyze and kill — is to meet it with equal levels of persistence. Which is why Global Citizen has been campaigning to end polio since their inception as an organization six years ago, joining the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) made up of five key partners including Rotary International, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization along with key advocacy partner, RESULTS — organizations who have been tirelessly working to see its eradication for decades.
A key focus of Global Citizen’s campaign has taken place in Canada, to urge the country’s government to take action on this urgent issue. And this Monday the country definitely stepped up, making a pledge of $100 million (CAD) towards getting rid of the deadly and debilitating disease once and for all.
Read more: Canada Makes $100 Million Pledge for Polio Eradication
“Thank you for your calls, tweets, and signatures, your voice counts and your actions matter.” Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, declared at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta on Monday, “Thank you for being a Global Citizen.”
The week before, Global Citizen, alongside Ramesh Ferris, a polio survivor and tireless advocate, handed over the E-petition 798 to Minister Bibeau, with nearly 3,000 signatures on it asking Canada to make a pledge to eradicate polio.
Read more: Minister Bibeau Receives Polio Petition and Announces Attendance at Rotary Convention
But the Minister was not simply referring to the recent pressure the government had received — Global Citizen has been running a campaign to get Canada to step up since 2013.
This campaign has involved every advocacy tool in the Global Citizen armory — from high-level meetings to celebrity pressure, and, of course, music. In March 2016, Wintersleep invited Global Citizen onto the stage of its Edmonton show to rally their fans around the cause.
In unison, the packed house yelled “End polio now!” to which MP Boissonnault remarked that he had never seen such a strong showing of this sentiment among young people in his riding and at a rock concert no less. This event marked the first of many “end polio now” moments which took place around the country at music festivals including Gridlock in Halifax, Pemberton in British Columbia, WayHome in Barrie, and Osheaga in Montreal.
At each stop along the way Global Citizen talked to Canadians about the importance of eradicating polio and empowered them to take action.
In 2017 alone, Global Citizens have taken over 33,000 actions to ensure Canada steps up. Including some pretty influential people like Laura Vandervoot:
Okay, Canada! For #canada150 - Let’s #endpolio. https://t.co/Yl395U0870pic.twitter.com/xZ3LLGj7p2— Laura Vandervoort (@Vandiekins22) February 1, 2017
And MP Mike Lake:
Terrific night, Mick! Nice work! #education#endpoliohttps://t.co/9A0jc0Sgr8— Mike Lake (@MikeLakeMP) June 8, 2017
A huge thank you, to each and every one of you for speaking up, and for taking us $100 million closer to ridding the world of this horrendous disease once and for all.
With your help, we can be the generation to ensure that polio follows smallpox to become the second disease in human history to be eradicated. With your help, we can ensure no more children needlessly miss out on the joy of being able to run, walk or play.