New US$35 million donation for polio eradication
Global efforts to end polio has received a boost after international service organisation Rotary International announced that it is donating US$35 million towards the eradication of polio, with US$15 million of the funds earmarked for use in supporting initiatives in five African countries. “We are closer than ever to achieving a polio-free world,” said Michael McGovern, Chair of the Rotary International PolioPlus Committee. “To ensure no [more] children suffer the devastating effects of this disease, we must ensure that the funds and political will are in place in 2016.” Last year was an historic one in the fight to eradicate the disease, with Nigeria being removed from the World Health Organisation’s list of endemic countries after a year without a new case of the virus, and a third of the new funding will be used to help the country remain polio free. Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia and Somalia will also receive financial support amounting to almost US$10 million in total, and with just Afghanistan and Pakistan reporting a single strain of the virus the remainder of the finances will be used to fund medical research and projects underway in endemic and at-risk communities in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and India. Rotary launched its polio immunisation programme PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a major partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with WHO, UNICEF, and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined later and has since pledged to donate US$2 for every dollar that Rotary commits to polio eradication. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 70 confirmed to date in 2015. However, the amount that is required to ensure the disease does not return to previously polio-free countries is believed to be in the region of US$1.5 billion, according to a six-year plan agreed by global leaders in 2013.
 
By Adam Pitt??
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Photo: Rotary International