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Helping UNICEF Create a Polio Free World

by Langdon on July 18, 2015

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Innovation is critical not only for the success of a business, but also in addressing broader social needs.

For the last few years, InnovationLabs has been working with UNICEF to support their compelling efforts to rid the world of the polio virus. Through a project called GPEI, or Global Polio Eradication Initiative, UNICEF has been working to vaccinate all of the world’s children, and nearly every country is now polio free. The last remaining reservoirs of the disease are located in some of the world’s strife-torn regions, but even there, such as in remote Pakistan and Afghanistan, government health workers, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF staff go from house to house to provide essential knowledge and vaccines.

While the vaccines are welcomed by the vast majority of families, there remains opposition to vaccination, and there have been assaults and even killings of polio workers. In the face of these dangers, still the workers persist. When we asked why, one health worker told us, “The children depend on us, and we will not let them down.”

InnovationLabs’ role has focused on facilitating multi-stakeholder groups to develop specific implementation plans, helping leaders from a wide variety of public, private, and non-profit organizations identify their shared objectives, and find creative ways to meet them.  We have also conducted extensive ethnographic research in Pakistan to help assess the training and support that polio workers receive, and as a result we’ve helped to create new trainings and training materials that are now being used very widely.

We’re also supporting UNICEF at the national and global levels by developing software and tools that help to coordinate the response when new outbreaks emerge.

We feel that it’s a privilege for us to be able to support this important work, and we are confident that despite the challenges and obstacles they face, these dedicated workers will soon succeed in their quest to rid the world of polio.  When that happens, humanity will have removed both smallpox and polio from the list of health threats we face, and this sets a strong and important precedent as we move towards a world in which every child and adult receives the vaccines, nutrition, and education needed to live a fulfilling life.

Photo: Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
During a vaccination campaign, workers go from house to house even in camps and migrant communities and strive to reach every child.

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