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C’wealth governments move to eliminate Polio

Government leaders have agreed to step up their efforts to eradicate polio, with promises to increase funding through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The decision was taken at the just-concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia. GPEI is a public-private partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organisation to eradicate polio worldwide.
A polio victim in Kigali. Commonwealth leaders have renewed commitment to eliminate polio. The New Times / File photo
A polio victim in Kigali. Commonwealth leaders have renewed commitment to eliminate polio. The New Times / File photo

Government leaders have agreed to step up their efforts to eradicate polio, with promises to increase funding through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

The decision was taken at the just-concluded Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth, Australia.

GPEI is a public-private partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organisation to eradicate polio worldwide.

It also supports the delivery of vital routine health interventions, including immunization campaigns, Vitamin A and zinc supplements, and distribution of mosquito nets.

Polio, or poliomyelitis, is a disease that mainly affects children under the age of five. It can cause irreversible paralysis and sometimes leads to death.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced, on Saturday, that her government would inject US$50 million to fight the killer disease.

American billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, through his foundation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, promised to join the campaign to eradicate the disease and pledged US$40 million towards the cause.

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also announced that his government would support the initiative with US$15 million over two years for 2012 and 2013.

These efforts come at a time when polio cases have reportedly decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases then to 1,604 cases in 2009.

The reduction is the result of global efforts to eradicate the disease. In 2010, only four countries in the world remained polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988. The remaining countries are Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), persistent pockets of polio transmission in northern India, northern Nigeria and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are the current focus of the polio eradication initiative.

In Rwanda, the Ministry of Health, last year, vaccinated about 59, 000 children against polio following reports of an outbreak of the disease in the neighbouring country of the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo.move to eliminate polio

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