US$630 million drive to eradicate polio by Gates foundation, Rotary,
UK and Germany
31 January 2009
Rotary International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UK
and German governments have committed more than US$630 million in new
funds to fight polio, a crippling and sometimes fatal disease that still
paralyzes children in parts of Africa and Asia and threatens children
In addition to pledging needed funds, leaders urged additional donors
and leaders of countries where polio still exists to join them in an
aggressive push for eradication — see how you can join
in the eradication programme...
The Gates Foundation is awarding a US$255 million challenge grant to
Rotary, which Rotary will match with US$100 million raised by its
members over the next three years. At the same time, the United Kingdom
is giving an additional US$150 million (£100 million) and Germany is
giving an additional US$130 million (€100
million), both to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
Contributions from the UK and Germany over the next five years will not
count toward Rotary's match of the Gates Foundation challenge grant.
As a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
(GPEI), Rotary's chief role is fundraising, advocacy, and mobilizing
volunteers. The announcements came during the Rotary International
Assembly, the humanitarian service organization's annual leadership
"Rotarians, government leaders, and health professionals have made a
phenomenal commitment so polio afflicts only a small number of the
world's children," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation.
"However, complete elimination of the polio virus is difficult and will
continue to be difficult for a number of years. Rotary in particular has
inspired my own personal commitment to get deeply involved in achieving
In accepting the Gates challenge, Rotary Foundation Chair Jonathan
Majiyagbe said the funding partnership will inspire other polio
eradication allies, both current and new, to ramp up their support.
"With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are on
the brink of eradicating one of the most feared diseases in the world,"
Majiyagbe said. "This shared commitment of Rotary and the Gates
Foundation should encourage governments and nongovernmental
organizations to ensure that resources and the will of the world are
available to end polio once and for all."
UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said, "This
£100 million pledge by the UK Government, combined with the money from
our other partners, is a massive boost in the battle to rid the world of
the scourge of polio.
"We have already significantly increased the number of vaccinations
for those people most at risk, and there has been real progress in
reducing the number of new infections. Now is the time to make the final
push to eradicate polio. This investment will ensure future generations
in the developing world will no longer have their lives blighted by this
New funding and government support still required
The polio eradication initiative faces an ongoing funding shortfall
that must be closed if eradication is to be achieved. With these new
investments, along with contributions received from Canada, Russia, the
United States and other donors, the shortfall for 2009-10 is US$340
million. The new funding from Germany will further reduce the gap.
"G-8 countries pledged repeatedly to take all necessary steps to
eradicate polio," said Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, German Minister for
Economic Cooperation and Development. "Germany has contributed
significantly to living up to this commitment. We urge other countries
to join us in closing the funding gap and ensuring that health workers
have the support they need to protect the world's children from polio."
Polio has been completely eliminated in the Americas, the Western
Pacific, and Europe, but the wild polio virus persists in Afghanistan,
India, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and imported cases from these countries
threaten other developing nations.
It is in these four countries that the most serious challenges exist,
including vaccine effectiveness (India), low vaccination coverage rates
(Nigeria), and access problems due to conflict (Afghanistan and
Pakistan). Much depends on the countries themselves. Recent progress in
key areas has shown that these challenges can be overcome with
sufficient national and sub-national commitment.
Launched in 1988, the GPEI — spearheaded by Rotary, the World Health
Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF —
has reduced the number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two
decades, from more than 350,000 cases in 1988 to an estimated 1,600 in
The GPEI partners will use the new polio eradication funds to support
a range of activities, including:
- National Immunization Days, when countries aim to immunize
every child under five years old with oral polio vaccine;
- Supplemental immunization activities focused on providing extra
vaccinations to children in high-risk areas;
- Research into new vaccines and ways to ensure they are available
to vulnerable children; and
- Surveillance activities to detect cases of polio so that
can be measured and outbreaks contained.
WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said: "Together with enhanced
commitment by the last four endemic countries at all levels, the new
funding commitments are precisely what is needed to help the governments
in these countries overcome the remaining barriers to reaching every
child with polio vaccine."
"Successfully eradicating polio is crucially important, not just to
ensure that no child will ever again be paralyzed by this devastating
disease, but also to show that today — in the 21st century — we can
deliver life-saving health interventions to every single child, no
matter where they live, and even in the most difficult and challenging
environments," said Dr Chan, who in 2008 made polio eradication WHO's
top operational priority.
This is the second challenge grant for polio eradication the Gates
Foundation has given Rotary. The first came in November 2007, when
Rotary agreed to match a US$100 million grant dollar-for-dollar.
Rotary clubs worldwide already are hard at work raising the matching
funds for what the organization has named Rotary's US$200 Million
Since the first Gates Foundation challenge grant was announced,
Rotary clubs have raised more than US$60 million toward the goal. Their
enthusiastic commitment was a major reason the second challenge was made
How to donate
Rotary also invites the general public to participate by visiting
learn about polio eradication and contribute to Rotary's US$200 Million
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