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Rotary International and Gates Foundation Together Commit $200 Million to Eradicate Polio
Date:11/26/2007

itment of Rotary and the Gates Foundation will challenge other donors -- including foundations, governments and non-governmental organizations -- to step up and make sure we have the resources needed to rid the world of polio once and for all."

The Gates Foundation grant comes at a crucial juncture for the initiative, which urgently needs an infusion of funds to reach the eradication goal. Although the GPEI has succeeded in slashing the number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two decades, the wild poliovirus still persists in four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan. The polio cases represented by that final one percent are the most costly to prevent due to such factors as geographical isolation, worker fatigue, low coverage with the vaccine, armed conflict and cultural barriers.

Last month, WHO released data confirming that all four remaining polio-endemic countries are on track to achieve eradication. In particular, significant progress has been made in India and Nigeria, which together account for 85 percent of the world's polio cases. Nigeria has reported 226 cases so far this year, compared with 958 at the same time last year. In both countries, more effective oral polio vaccines have contributed to steady progress in reducing polio cases.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan says the Gates Foundation grant reaffirms that polio eradication is both feasible and achievable. "This investment is precisely the catalyst we need as we intensify the push to finish polio," said Chan. "We have the technical tools to do it, and we can achieve a polio-free world if the rest of our financial partners step up to meet the challenge."

Most of the initial $100 million will be spent in support of mass immunization campaigns in polio-affected countries, poliovirus surveillance activities and community education and outreach. The grant will also support an expanded research agenda on ways to halt the spread of the pol
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SOURCE Rotary International
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