Gates Foundation pledges $1.2B to eradicate polio globally

Gates Foundation pledges $1.2B to eradicate polio globally

BERLIN The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced that it will contribute $1.2 billion to the fight against polio worldwide.

The money will be used for the implementation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative strategy through 2026. In a Sunday statement, the foundation stated that the initiative aims to eradicate the polio virus from Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are the two last endemic countries.

The money will also be used to prevent the spread of new strains of the virus. The announcement was made at the World Health Summit in Berlin on Sunday.

The foundation stated in a statement that it contributed almost $5 billion to the polio elimination 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 statement stated that the group is also working to strengthen national health systems so that countries are better prepared for any future health threats.

” The last steps to eradicate polio are the most difficult. However, our foundation is committed to a polio-free world and we are optimistic that we will soon see it happen,” stated Mark Suzman, foundation CEO.

Pakistan reported 20 cases of polio this year. All cases were in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.

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. The Taliban allowed United Nations health workers to start a national campaign last year, just a few months after taking over Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been plagued by Islamic militants attacking polio workers and police protecting them. They falsely claim that vaccinations are a Western campaign for sterilizing children. It faces the additional challenge of unprecedented rains destroying roads and health facilities, limiting vaccination drives and displacing communities.

Despite billions of dollars spent on the effort to eradicate Polio since 1988 – the program costs around $1 billion each year – the World Health Organization (and its partners) have repeatedly missed deadlines to eradicate the disease and have been criticized for not being able to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, in recent years, there have been more cases attributed to the oral vaccine than those from the wild virus.

Numerous experts also question whether more money is needed to eradicate polio. The initiative is already one the most well-funded in global public health and has never faced funding gaps. Although WHO and its partners have made significant progress in reducing the incidence of polio by more 99%,, this was mostly achieved within the first 10 year. The disease is still endemic in war-torn areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there have been numerous vaccine-triggered outbreaks across Africa and elsewhere in recent times, including in the U.S. and Israel.

A panel of independent experts formed to assess the progress of the eradication effort has repeatedly identified strategic mistakes made in countries, WHO, and their donors. They warned that their refusal to change course, along with other issues, could allow polio to return. The eradication effort is a public-private partnership that is led by a group national governments, including the Gates Foundation and Rotary International.

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