At a side event during the United Nations General Assembly last week, the heads of state of Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan — countries where polio remains endemic — were joined by officials from donor governments and public- and private-sector donors in calling for a long-term commitment of resources to polio eradication. Spearheaded by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Rotary International and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GPEI launched an emergency action plan earlier this year. Implementation of the plan is contingent on closing a funding gap of nearly $1 billion by the end of 2013, however.
To that end, Rotary International and other donors are stepping up their commitments to the initiative. The Islamic Development Bank, a new donor, announced a three-year, $227 million financing package to Pakistan to cover the majority of its polio vaccination campaign costs, as well as a $3 million grant for polio eradication activities in Afghanistan. The United Kingdom announced a commitment of an additional £25 million (about $40.3 million) to GPEI in 2012. And the government of Canada announced an initiative that will engage civil society organization in matching contributions to GPEI, while Football Club Barcelona and its FCB Foundation announced the club's engagement in the effort in collaboration with the Gates Foundation and telecom operator Etisalat.
"Governments need to step up and honor their commitments to polio eradication if we are to achieve a polio-free world," said Wilfrid Wilkinson, chair of the Rotary Foundation, which already had contributed $1.2 billion to polio eradication efforts. "We must seize the advantage by acting immediately, or risk breaking our pledge to the world's children."
"The evidence is clear: if we all do our part, we can and will end this disease. But we must act quickly and give ourselves the very best chance to succeed," said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates. "When we defeat polio, it will motivate us to aim for other great health and development milestones."