Gates Foundation pledges $1.2B to eradicate polio globally
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will commit $1.2 billion to the effort to end polio worldwide. The money will be used to help implement the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s strategy through 2026.
The initiative is trying to end the polio virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two endemic countries, the foundation said in a statement on Oct. 16. The money also will be used to stop outbreaks of new variants of the virus. The announcement was made on Oct. 16 at the World Health Summit in Berlin.
The foundation says in a statement on its website that it has contributed nearly $5 billion to the polio eradication initiative. The initiative is trying to integrate polio campaigns into broader health services, while it scales up use of the novel oral polio vaccine type 2.
The group also is working to make national health systems stronger so countries are better prepared for future health threats, the statement said.
“The last steps to eradication are by far the toughest. But our foundation remains dedicated to a polio-free future, and we’re optimistic that we will see it soon,” said foundation CEO Mark Suzman.
Pakistan has reported 20 polio cases so far this year, all in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Afghanistan, which has registered two cases this year, previously lacked access to vaccines because of violence and the Taliban banning polio teams in areas under its control. However last year, a few months after they took over Afghanistan, the Taliban agreed to allow United Nations health workers to begin a national campaign.
Despite the billions of dollars that have gone into the effort to eradicate polio since 1988 - the program costs about $1 billion every year- the World Health Organization and partners have missed repeated deadlines to wipe out the disease and have come under sustained criticism for failing to adapt to challenges. In recent years, for example, there have been more cases of polio linked to the oral vaccine used in eradication efforts than those caused by the wild virus.