By Caty Weaver

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Late last month, United Nations officials gathered with representatives of national and international health groups, children's organizations and community aid groups. They met at the U-N to discuss the effort to end polio. The delegates call themselves Polio Eradication Partners. They are seeking to make the world completely free of the disease by Two-Thousand-Five.

Polio is a serious infection caused by a virus. It can spread quickly through communities. The disease severely damages the muscles of its victims. Polio first causes fever and pain in the head and throat. People infected with the disease have trouble moving their neck and back muscles. Pain also develops in the legs as the muscles weaken. In time, polio victims may not be able to stand or walk. And, some people die from the disease.

In Nineteen-Eighty-Eight, the World Health Organization began an effort to end polio. W-H-O director Gro Harlem Brundtland says that at that time three-hundred-fifty-thousand cases of polio were reported each year. The victims lived mainly in developing countries. Industrial nations had been using a vaccine to protect children from polio for many years.

The U-N says there were about seven-thousand new cases of polio infection reported in Nineteen-Ninety-Nine. Health experts say the disease still exists in only twenty countries in Africa and Asia. But, the Polio Eradication Partners say these countries present the biggest barriers to destroying the disease.

The Partners say their medical teams can not vaccinate children against polio in many of these countries. Sometime this is because communities are far from cities in areas where travel is difficult. Civil conflicts are a problem in several of the countries. Sometimes travel is not permitted or areas are too dangerous to enter.

Doctor Brundtland expressed strong belief that the goal of a world free of polio can be met by Two-Thousand-Five. But, she told delegates that medical workers must be permitted and able to reach all children, especially in areas of conflict. And she says public and private groups must help pay for the polio effort. Doctor Brundtland said at least four-hundred-fifty-million dollars more is needed.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Caty Weaver.

Voice of America Special English