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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

UNICEF’s Polio Chief Shares Updates, Insights, Prospects For Eradication

Akhil Iyer now leads UNICEF”s global polio eradication effort; he’s spent most of his three-decade career fight polio. He acknowledges that ending polio has proven more difficult than hoped and expected, but he remains optimistic about eradication.

Akhil also shared his thoughts on vaccine safety, noting that millions of people are alive because of vaccines. Speaking to Rotarians who may be concerned about vaccine safety or effectiveness, he said there are millions of children who are not paralyzed today precisely because they have been vaccinated.

Learning from heading up the polio fight in Afghanistan, his last assignment, Akhil remains convinced that we can eradicate polio even there. He notes that the Taliban–nervous about vaccinations for a variety of reasons–has been willing to accommodate vaccination campaigns.

Be sure to watch the full interview with Akhil from the World Polio Day event hosted by Rotary with help from UNICEF and the other GPEI partners in the player at the top of this article.  

Interview with Akhil Iyer, the Director, Polio Eradication of UNICEF.

The following is the pre-interview with Akhil Iyer. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.

More about UNICEF:

Twitter: @UNICEF, @UNICEFPolio



UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF has been a spearheading partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, alongside the WHO, Rotary International, CDC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, since 1988.

UNICEF Director of Polio Eradication Akhil Iyer speaks at Rotary’s sixth annual World Polio Day event, streamed live from the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 24 October 2018. Credit: Rotary International.

Akhil Iyer’s bio:

Akhil Iyer is Director, Polio at UNICEF. He has extensive experience within UNICEF, recently serving in Haiti to coordinate UNICEF’s emergency response following Hurricane Mathew. He was the UNICEF Representative for Afghanistan between 2013 and 2016, and Deputy Director of Emergency Operations (EMOPS) in UNICEF from 2009 to 2013 supporting the implementation of UNICEF’s humanitarian response globally. From 2006 to 2009, Akhil served as UNICEF’s Representative in the Republic of Niger, and UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Angola (2001 to 2006) and in the Republic of Yemen (1997 to 2001). Akhil also headed UNICEF’s office in Sao Tome and Principe (1994-1997) and worked as an Emergency Field Officer with UNICEF in Angola from 1991-1994. Prior to working with UNICEF, Akhil worked in the International Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and with UNDP. Akhil is a national of Canada.

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