The End of Polio: Questions from the Street

Saturday I took part in grassroots campaigning at its grassiest. Standing near a busy intersection on Putney High Street armed with a pen, a clip board, the support of two Global Poverty Project colleagues, and my most approachable smile, I collected signatures for The End of Polio campaign.


Motivated by the desire to show Justine Greening, my local MP and the Secretary of State for International Development, that her own constituents care about eradicating polio I plucked up the courage to ask hundreds of passersby ‘would you like to sign our petition to end polio?’ Many responded with simple smiles and a shake of the head as they hurried past. Others ignored me completely, refusing to even look me in the eye. With the ‘charity mugger’ culture that exists on our London high streets I can’t say that I blame them. But when people did take the time to stop and sign they often asked one of these three questions.

But I thought polio was already eradicated?

Okay, more a statement than a question, but the inflection was there. Because polio has been eradicated in the UK for over 30 years most people assume that it’s been eradicated everywhere. But that’s simply not the case. Though polio has been eradicated by 99% around the world there is still 1% remaining. Polio remains endemic in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Now is the crucial moment for action to ensure that polio becomes the second disease in all of human history to be completely eradicated as has been achieved with small pox.

What is polio?

Polio is an infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis and even death (The End of Polio). It is highly infectious and travels easily as it spread by person-to-person contact. When a child is infected with the virus it enters the system via the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Though polio can affect people of any age it primarily affects children under five. (Global Polio Eradication Initiative)

How can my signature end polio?

This is a great question! Polio is particularly pernicious disease that certainly pays no heed to signatures telling it to go away. Collecting signatures from people around the UK helps to quantify the desire to eradicate polio. Collecting signatures from Putney residents provides further evidence to Justine Greening that her own constituents care about this issue and want to eradicate polio. With this data we hope to encourage Justine Greening to recommit funds given from the UK’s foreign aid budget to continue eradication efforts.

If you’d like to add your voice to end polio please visit The End of Polio.