By Winifred Ogbebo with agency
Global health leaders gathered at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta, yesterday to reaffirm their commitment to eradicating polio and pledged US$ 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, with only five cases to date in 2017.
To end the disease for good, government representatives and partners came together yesterday 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 US$ 75 million from Canada, US$ 61.4 million from the European Commission, US$ 55 million from Japan, US$ 30 million from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, US$ 30 million from the Dalio Foundation, US$ 25 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, US$ 15 million from an anonymous donor, US$ 13.4 million from Australia, US$ 11.2 million from Germany, US$ 5 million from easyJet, US$ 5 million from Italy and US$ 4 million from the Republic of Korea.
Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & 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 US$ 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 US$ 450 million in the next three years for the GPEI. The Gates Foundation pledged a total of US$ 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.”