Rotary announces $100 million funding to help eradicate polio

Rotary thinks barriers to eradication like weak health systems, insecurity, and mobile and remote populations must be overcome.

Rotary announced on Monday that it was giving $100 million in grants to support global effort to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralysed hundreds of thousands of children each year.

Rotary International brings together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service and advance goodwill and peace around the world.

The funding comes as Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) address the final and most pressing challenges to ending poliovirus transmission.

With Nigeria approaching three years without any reported cases of wild poliovirus, the African region is closer to attaining polio-free status.

“Routine immunisation in high-risk states is helping us prevent new cases of wild polio,” Dr. Tunji Funsho, the Chair or Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee, said in a statement shared on Monday.

Although the polio infrastructure has become stronger and allows us to also respond to other serious health concerns, he added, we must remain committed to ensuring the political and financial support necessary to ending polio in Nigeria and around the globe for good.

While there were only 33 cases of wild poliovirus reported in 2018, the last mile of eradication has proven to be the most difficult.

The organisation thinks barriers to eradication like weak health systems, insecurity, and mobile and remote populations must be overcome.

“As long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and commitment to eradication,” reads part of the statement.

To support polio eradication efforts in endemic countries, Rotary is allocating half the funds it announced on Monday to Afghanistan ($16.3 million), Nigeria ($10.2 million), and Pakistan ($25.2million), it said.

Additional funding will support efforts to keep vulnerable countries polio-free, including Chad ($102,395), Democratic Republic of the Congo ($9.5 million), Ethiopia ($2.6 million) and Iraq ($6 million).

Other beneficiaries include Kenya ($6.3 million), Mali ($1.2 million), Somalia ($1.4 million), South Sudan ($1.2 million), Syria ($1.7 million), and Yemen ($2.1 million).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will receive $1.3 million to conduct research, and will also receive support for surveillance activities in its Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions.

Rotary has so far contributed more than $1.9 billion to fight the disease, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication programme – PolioPlus – in 1985.

In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Gates Foundation later joined.

Since the initiative was launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases of wild poliovirus in 2018.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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