In its effort to completely eradicate polio, countries and partners have pledged $1.2 billion to protect 450 million children from the disease every year.
According to a statement by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, Monday, the pledges came from governments, health workers, donors and the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), at a Rotary convention in Atlanta.
Major pledges include: $75 million from Canada, $61.4 million from the Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, $30 million from the Dalio Foundation, $25 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, $15 million from an anonymous donor, $13.4 million from Australia, $11.2 million from Germany, $5 million from easyJet, $5 million from Italy and $4 million from the Republic of Korea.
The statement read in part: “thirty years ago, polio paralysed more than 350,000 children each year in more than 125 countries around the world. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of governments, health workers, donors and the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership dedicated to ending the disease, the highly contagious virus has now been eliminated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. There have been only five cases to date in 2017
“However, children remain at risk everywhere until polio is completely stopped. To end the disease for good, government representatives and partners came together to renew their commitment to supporting crucial activities such as vaccination and disease monitoring, which will protect more than 450 million children from polio each year.”
“We are closer than ever to making history,” said Chris Elias, Global Development President, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board. “These new commitments will help ensure that we will finish the job.”
A global multibillion dollar immunisation campaign over the past few decades has made most of the world polio-free. But in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria the crippling disease remains.
Despite a coordinated United Nations polio-prevention drive in all three countries, there are still cases of children becoming paralyzed and painfully die ultimately from the highly infectious disease every year.
In all three countries, the most afflicted regions are those where the government’s reach is weakest and the presence of Islamic militants is strongest.
In all of 2016, the three polio endemic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria saw a combined 37 wild poliovirus (WPV) cases, plus five circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) cases including three in non-endemic Laos, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
Through May 10 this year, only five WPV cases have been reported (Afghanistan-3 and Pakistan-2) with the last onset of paralysis being in February.
Nigeria hasn’t reported a WPV case since August 2016 in Monguno Local Government Area (LGA), Borno State in Nigeria.
Nigeria would have been certified polio-free by July 2017 and subsequently removed from the list of polio endemic countries if not for the new cases involving two children in in Borno State in August.
Before this re-emergence, Nigeria had not reported a polio case since July 24, 2014, the World Health Organisation said.
Barring the new cases, Nigeria was on track to be declared polio free on July 24, 2017. A country must not have any case for at least three years to be declared polio-free.