ILLINOIS – Rotary is giving US$100 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.
The funding comes as Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) address the final—and most pressing—challenges to ending poliovirus transmission, and as Nigeria approaches three years without any reported cases of wild poliovirus, bringing the Africa region closer to polio-free status.
“Routine immunization in high-risk states is helping us prevent new cases of wild polio,” said Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair or Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. “Although the polio infrastructure has become stronger and allows us to also respond to other serious health concerns, we must remain committed to ensuring the political and financial support necessary to ending polio in Nigeria and around the globe for good.”
While there were only 33 cases of wild poliovirus reported in 2018, the last mile of eradication has proven to be the most difficult. Barriers to eradication–like weak health systems, insecurity, and mobile and remote populations–must be overcome. As long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and commitment to eradication.
To support polio eradication efforts in endemic countries, Rotary is allocating half the funds it announced today to: Afghanistan ($16.3 million), Nigeria ($10.2 million), and Pakistan ($25.2million). Additional funding will support efforts to keep vulnerable countries polio-free:
The World Health Organization (WHO) will receive $1.3 million to conduct research, and will also receive support for surveillance activities in its Africa ($10.9 million) and Eastern Mediterranean ($4 million) Regions.
Rotary has committed to raising $50 million a year to be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, amounting to $150 million for polio eradication annually. Rotary has contributed more than $1.9 billion to fight the disease, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Gates Foundation later joined. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases of wild poliovirus in 2018.