As the world inches closer toward eradicating polio, Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will spend nearly a half-billion dollars more in an effort to eliminate the disease over the next three years.
Bill Gates joined Rotary President John Germ to announce the pledge at the annual Rotary International Convention that concluded today in Atlanta. It drew nearly 40,000 Rotarians from around the world to a four-day schedule of workshops, panel talks, discussions and reports on Rotary’s various worldwide public service efforts — human trafficking, clean water, education and others. However, it was the latest commitment to polio eradication that made the biggest news.
Beginning July 1, the start of the 2017-18 Rotary Year, the Gates Foundation will match Rotary’s commitment to raise $50 million annually over the next three years on a 2-to-1 basis. That means another $450 million could be added to funds already committed to support efforts to eradicate the disease by 2020.
The matching program adds to a pledge made in 2013, when the Gates Foundation pledged to match Rotary contributions 2-to-1 up to $35 million each year through 2018. With this commitment, the two organizations together will have raised nearly $1.5
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billion since 2007 to fight polio.
The money will fund both the administration of oral vaccinations in countries in which children still are at risk for contracting polio, and increasing disease surveillance efforts such as testing sewage water to detect where the virus could still be circulating in communities.
Polio, once found everywhere in the world, now is endemic in only three places — Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. While the disease, which causes paralysis and even death, is is not curable, it is preventable. Elimination comes through a vigorous campaign of oral vaccine in conjunction with a series of booster doses that maintain the immunity.