The Gates Foundation pledges $1.8 billion to help eradicate Polio
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative received a considerable boost towards achieving their funding target when the Gates? Foundation pledged$1.8bn USD towards eradicating Polio.
The commitment, announced at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, brings the total funds raised to $4bn, 73% of the desired $5.5bn.
Other contributions at the summit came from participants representing the UK, Canada, Abu Dhabi, Germany, and Norway, that pledged a combined $1.17bn USD towards the cause.
The new funds will go a long way to support immunization programmes in the three remaining countries that account for 97% of Polio cases – and therefore are still considered polio endemic – Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Whilst the number of worldwide polio infections plunged to 223 in 2012 (compared to 360,000 in 1988 when the United Nations launched the campaign to eliminate Polio) the programmes in the last three countries have been hampered by military conflict in recent years.
Polio endemic countries can follow India?s anti-Polio campaign
Since the launch of the UN initiative to eradicate Polio the incidence rate has dropped by more than 99%. On January 13th 2013 India marked its 2 year anniversary without a case of Polio, a testament to its continued activities in order to maintain this position. Ongoing vaccination campaigns and extensive surveillance for acute flaccid paralysis (AFP), a common symptom of Polio, enable Indian health-care officials to uphold an achievement that was once considered an impossible feat.
Mr Gupta, the manager of PolioPlus India, remembers the 25th Februrary 2012 as the day that the World Health Organisation no longer considered India as a source of the disease:
“I just sat there and started to think about of how long it took us to get to get here,”
said Mr Gupta, who, has spent the better part of three decades working with politicians, health-care workers, activists and volunteers to help eliminate the crippling disease.
Since its launch in 1985 the PolioPlus programme has vaccinated over 170 million children that saw the number of cases plummet from 741 in 2009 to zero by early 2011. The challenges that the programme has faced has been vast due to the lack of established health-care infrastructure for large numbers of India?s transient population. Nutritional and sanitary conditions have also been key obstacles as vaccination efficiency was sub-optimal, due to malnourishment, and disease transmission was high, due to transmission through faeces.
What remains key in the effort to eradicate Polio in the remaining endemic countries is safeguarding health-care officials and immunisation programmes from ongoing regional conflict. Until this can be achieved neighbouring countries must continue in their vigilance to prevent cross-border viral transmission. The outstanding achievements by India provide a blueprint for the successful eradication of Polio and combined, the global efforts are well on course to achieve the goal of finally removing the scourge of Polio by 2018.
– Jonathan Mackinnon