AsianScientist (Oct. 8, 2012) – At a September 27 side event on polio eradication during the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, heads of state from polio-endemic countries met with donor government and agency representatives to pledge their support to stamp out the viral disease.
“This decisive moment is a matter of health and justice. Every child should have the right to start life with equal protection from this disease. That’s why I have made eradicating polio a top priority for my second term as Secretary-General,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
The global incidence of polio, a vaccine-preventable viral disease, has shown a 99 percent reduction worldwide since 1988.
In 1988, there were 125 countries with polio, however, thanks to the global fight against polio, only three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria still harbor the virus.
During the event, leaders from polio-endemic countries – President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria – highlighted their strategies to counter the spread of polio.
Many top-level officials from the donor countries, including Canada, Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States, expressed solidarity to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), which aims to eradicate polio by 2015.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard affirmed her country’s commitment to the fight against polio and encouraged other Commonwealth countries to also take part. Last October, Australia committed US$50 million during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Also speaking was Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the United States. The U.S. has been the leading donor to the GPEI and provides technical support through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
“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 Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, one of the leading donors to the GPEI.
The Islamic Development Bank, a new donor to the polio eradication effort, announced a three-year US$227 million financing package to Pakistan which will cover the majority of the country’s polio vaccination campaign costs. It also announced a US$3 million grant for polio eradication activities in Afghanistan.
Mr. Wilfrid J. Wilkinson, trustee chair of the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, which already has contributed US$1.2 billion to polio eradication, also announced additional funding of US$75 million over three years to GPEI.
Source: Gates Foundation.
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