This week, global health leaders gathered at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta to reaffirm their commitment to eradicating polio and pledge $1.2 billion to finance efforts to end the disease.
Thirty years ago, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children each year in more than 125 countries around the world. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of governments, health workers, donors and the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership dedicated to ending the disease, the highly contagious virus has now been eliminated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. There have been only five cases to date in 2017.
However, children remain at risk everywhere until polio is completely stopped. To end the disease for good, government representatives and partners came together to renew their commitment to supporting crucial activities such as vaccination and disease monitoring, which will protect more than 450 million children from polio each year.
“Thanks to the incredible efforts of Rotarians, governments, health workers, partners and donors – including those who have gathered at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta – we are closer than ever to making history,” said Chris Elias, Global Development President, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board. “These new commitments will help ensure that we will finish the job.”
In a time of many global challenges and priorities, governments and partners have stepped forward to demonstrate their collective resolve to seeing the second human disease ever eradicated. Major pledges include: $75 million from Canada, $61.4 million from the European Commission, $55 million from Japan, $30 million from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, $30 million from the Dalio Foundation, $25 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, $15 million from an anonymous donor, $13.4 million from Australia, $11.2 million from Germany, $5 million from easyJet, $5 million from Italy and $4 million from the Republic of Korea.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and John Germ, president of Rotary International, also announced an extension of their partnership in front of more than 20,000 Rotarians. Up to $150 million in funds raised by Rotary members over the next three years will be matched 2:1 by the Gates Foundation, resulting in up to $450 million in the next three years for the GPEI. The Gates Foundation pledged a total of $450 million, including this matching agreement.
“The global eradication of polio has been Rotary’s top priority since 1985. Rotary members have been the driving force behind the fight to end polio since its inception,” said John Germ, President of Rotary International. “Their continued commitment to raising funds for eradication – coupled with today’s match by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – makes that impact even greater.”
Today’s funding helps address a $1.5 billion funding need that will help ensure that the virus is eliminated from these remaining countries and prevented from regaining a foothold anywhere else in the world.
“Constant innovation has been key to improving vaccination coverage and reaching more children with the polio vaccine,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, Acting Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The unrelenting commitment and support of these global leaders will help us do just that—and ultimately end this disease for everyone and forever. CDC remains deeply committed to polio eradication and has contributed $2.28 billion since the beginning of the initiative.”
Today’s funding commitments will enable the program to continue to improve performance and overcome challenges to reach every child, including vaccinating children in conflict areas.
“We are, together, truly on the verge of eradicating polio from the planet—but only if we work relentlessly to reach the children we have not yet reached,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “We cannot fail to make this last effort. Because if we do not now make history, we will, and should be, judged harshly by history.”
Thanks to efforts to date, polio has been eliminated from some of the most remote and challenging areas in the world. For example, India – once considered the most difficult place in the world to stop the disease – hasn’t reported a case in more than six years. More than 16 million children worldwide are walking today who would otherwise have been paralyzed by this disease, and polio resources in countries around the world are helping advance other national health goals.
“The key to ending polio will be to ensure that millions of health workers – some of whom work in the most challenging environments in the world – are able to reach every child, everywhere in the world,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “Eradicating polio will be a perpetual gift to coming generations.”
Today’s contributions and the continued commitment of all donors and partners will help end this devastating disease and ensure that the infrastructure and assets used to fight polio lay the foundation for better health outcomes for children everywhere for years to come.