Gates, Rotary foundations invest $200 million to eradicate polio.

| December 1, 2007
The Chicago Tribune (11/27, Shelton) reports, "Aiming to inject $200 million into the global campaign to eradicate polio, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced Monday that it is awarding a $100 million challenge grant to the" Illinois-based Rotary Foundation.  Inspired by one of the "largest challenge grants ever awarded," the Rotary will implement immunization and education projects "in the four remaining countries where polio is still endemic."
The New York Times (11/27, A14, Dugger) lists India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria as "the only countries where polio remains stubbornly endemic."Attempts have been made previously to eradicate the disease.
According to the AP (11/27, Cheng), "Two deadlines to eliminate polio have been missed: 2000 and 2005." And so far at least "$5 billion has been poured into the effort," yet the disease is not completely gone. This has some concerned "that, unless the job is finished soon, the world community’s money and patience may run out."
According to Bloomberg (11/27, Lopatto), funds from this latest donation "will be spent on activities including mass immunization campaigns." Polio vaccines, first made "widely available in 1955," have been useful in helping to eliminate the disease. So far this year there are 735 cases of polio that have been documented worldwide.
According to Radio New Zealand (11/27), the number 735 cases this year are less than half the number reported at this time last year, which was 1,686.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (11/27, Paulson) quotes Bill Gates Sr. as saying, "Eradicating polio is an achievable goal." He added that the Gates Foundation’s contribution to the Rotary Foundation’s efforts is a "vote of confidence" that the non-profit will be able to help fight the disease. If polio is eradicated, it would be only the second disease to be eliminated. Currently, smallpox holds the distinction of the only completely eradicated disease.
Seattle, Wash.’s, Puget Sound Business Journal (11/27) quotes Bill Gates Jr. as saying, "The extraordinary dedication of Rotary members has played a critical role in brining polio to the brink of eradication." During the "past 22 years, Rotary has raised $633 million" to help fight the illness.
Despite the fact that the disease remains endemic in certain countries around the world, strides have been made in eradication. According to BBC News (11/27, McGivering), "In the late 1980s, about 360,000 children a year were being paralyzed by the disease," a number that has declined "to just over 700 a year." According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) director general, Dr. Margaret Chan, "The last pockets of this disease are the hardest and the most costly to reach."
Chan added that the Gates and Rotary foundations’ investments are "precisely the catalyst we need as we intensify the push to finish polio. 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," Chan said in an AFP (11/27) article.
Despite the investment by these two organizations, the Canadian Press (11/27, Braswell) adds that Chan said, "$650 million remains to be raised to fund eradication efforts for 2008 and 2009." The WHO, together with Rotary International, UNICEF, and the CDC have partnered in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Although G8 nations "agreed to continue or increase funding over 2003-05 levels" during the 2005 summit, so far the nations have thus "far provided only 57 percent as much for the 2006-08 budget period as they did in 2003-05."
Scotland’s Herald (11/27, Morgan) reports that to completely eliminate polio will cost a total of about $1 billion. Problems standing in the way of total eradication, besides a lack of necessary funds, include "geographic isolation, armed conflict, and cultural barriers" in the nations that still have cases of polio. The Los Angeles Times (11/27, Piller) and the Boston Globe (11/27, Donnelly) also cover the story.

Category: General Healthcare News

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