Health

Polio: Global leaders pledge $1.2B to protect 450m children annually

The statement quoted Elias recalling that some years ago, polio paralysed over 350,000 children annually in more than 125 countries around the world.

Global Health Leaders has reaffirmed their commitment to eradicate polio and provide $1.2 billion to finance efforts to end the disease.

A statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja by Mr Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Communication Specialist, said the leaders gave the assurance at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta.

The leaders included UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake; Dr Anne Schuchat, Acting Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

Others are Chris Elias, Global Development President; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chair of the GPEI Polio Oversight Board.

The statement quoted Elias recalling that some years ago, polio paralysed over 350,000 children annually in more than 125 countries around the world.

He lauded the efforts of governments, health workers, donors and partners for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public private partnership dedicated to ending the disease.

The president, who described the virus as highly contagious, however said that it has been eliminated in almost all the countries left with Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, adding that there have been only five cases till date.

However emphasised that children remain at risk everywhere until polio is completely stopped, describing its elimination as perpetual gift to coming generation.

Elias noted that the convention, which was the gathering of government representatives and partners, was to renew their commitment in supporting crucial activities such as vaccination and disease monitoring.

This, he noted, would protect more than 450 million children from polio each year thereby resulting to ending the disease in the region.

He appreciated the laudable efforts of Rotarians, governments and health workers in assuring that there will be an end to the virus.

Also, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said that the funding commitments would enable the programme to continue to improve performance and overcome challenges to reach every child, including vaccinating children in conflict areas.

Lake said: “We are, together, truly on the verge of eradicating polio from the planet but only if we work relentlessly to reach the children we have not yet reached.

“We cannot fail to make this last effort. Because if we do not now make history, we will, and should be judged harshly by history.”

On her part, Dr Margret Chan WHO Director-General while speaking on the progress so far noted that polio has been eliminated from some of the most remote and challenging areas in the world like India once considered as most difficult place in the world to stop the disease.

She said that no case has been reported in the past six years, adding that over 16 million children worldwide are walking today who would otherwise have been paralysed by this disease.

According to her, polio resources in countries around the world are helping to advance other national health goals.

“The key to ending polio will be to ensure that millions of health workers some of whom work in the most challenging environments in the world are able to reach every child, everywhere in the world,” she said.

Mr John Germ, President of Rotary International, said global eradication of polio has been top priority of the club since 1985.

“Rotary members have been the driving force behind the fight to end polio since its inception.

“Their continued commitment to raising funds for eradication coupled with today’s match by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation makes that impact even greater,” Germ said.

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