The Rotary Foundation will receive a $100 million challenge grant from the Gates Foundation that Rotary has pledged to match within three years. Rotary will spend most of the initial $100 million during the first year of the campaign on mass immunization efforts in polio-affected countries, as well as poliovirus surveillance activities and community education and outreach. The latter will be conducted by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, and UNICEF. The grant will also support an expanded research on ways to expedite interruption of the transmission of the wild poliovirus. Rotary will distribute the funds through grants to WHO and UNICEF.
Although the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has slashed the number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two decades, the wild poliovirus persists in Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan, where eradication of the disease remains difficult and costly to geographical isolation, poor public infrastructure, armed conflict, and cultural barriers. According to Dr. Bruce Aylward, who heads the polio program at the World Health Organization, the seven hundred reported cases of the disease suggest that as many as one million people still carry and can spread the virus.
"This investment is precisely the catalyst we need as we intensify the push to finish polio," added WHO director-general Dr. Margaret Chan, noting that the initiative is still $650 million short of its $1.2 billion budget. "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."