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Countries and partners have announced commitments to vaccinate 450 million children against polio each year and overcome barriers to reaching all children.
On Nov. 19, 2019 global leaders met at the Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) Forum in Abu Dhabi and affirmed their commitment to eradicate polio. Their commitment comes with a pledge of $2.6 billion as part of the first phase of the funding needed to implement their strategy, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s Polio Endgame Strategy 2019–2023.
The move comes soon after a major announcement in October 2019 that the world has eradicated two of the three wild poliovirus strains, leaving only the wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) in circulation. Also announced was the news that Nigeria-the last country in Africa to have cases of wild polio-has not seen wild polio since 2016. As a result, the entire World Health Organization (WHO) African region could be certified as wild-polio-free in 2020. Based on dedicated efforts by health workers, governments, donors and partners, wild polio only circulates in two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the WHO.
“From supporting one of the world’s largest health workforces, to reaching every last child with vaccines, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is not only moving us closer to a polio-free world, it’s also building essential health infrastructure to address a range of other health needs,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO and chair of the Polio Oversight Board, in a press release issued by the organization. “We are grateful for the generous pledges made today and thank governments, donors, and partners for standing with us. In particular, I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi for hosting the GPEI pledging moment and for his long-term support for polio eradication.”
This pledge comes at a critical time when polio eradication efforts are challenged with barriers to reaching every child, including inconsistent campaign quality, insecurity, conflict, massive mobile populations, and, in some instances, parental refusal to the vaccine. These barriers have led to ongoing transmission of the wild poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, low immunity to the virus in parts of Africa and Asia where not all children are vaccinated has resulted in outbreaks of a rare form of the virus. In a bid to overcome these obstacles and protect 450 million children from polio every year, governments and donors announced significant new financial commitments toward the overall $3.27 billion needed to support the Polio Endgame Strategy.
Pledges to the campaign include:
Meanwhile, pledges from GPEI partners include $1.08 billion from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and $150 million from Rotary International. Pledges from philanthropic organizations include $50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, $25 million from Dalio Philanthropies, $15 million from the Tahir Foundation, $6.4 million from the United Nations Foundation, $2 million from Alwaleed Philanthropies, $1 million from the Charina Endowment Fund, and $1 million from Ningxia Yanbao Charity Foundation.
From the private sector, pledges include $1 million from Ahmed Al Abdulla Group, $1 million from Al Ansari Exchange, and $340,000 from Kasta Technologies. In addition, earlier in November 2019, the United Kingdom announced it would contribute up to $514.8 million to the GPEI.
“We are proud to host the GPEI pledging moment in Abu Dhabi and thank all the attendees for their continued commitment to the eradication of polio,” said Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, United Arab Emirates cabinet member and minister of State for International Cooperation, in the press release. “Since launching in 2014, the Emirates Polio Campaign has delivered more than 430 million polio vaccines in some of the most remote areas of Pakistan. We remain firm in our mission to reach every last child and believe together we can consign polio to the pages of history.”
In addition to overcoming barriers to reach every child, this funding will ensure that the resources and infrastructure built by the GPEI can support other health needs today and in the future. Polio workers deliver Vitamin A supplements, provide other vaccines (e.g., measles and yellow fever), counsel new mothers on breastfeeding, and strengthen disease surveillance systems to anticipate and respond to outbreaks. Further, as part of the GPEI’s commitment to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, the alliance is also working to ensure equal participation of women at all levels of the program.