US$ 2.6 Billion Pledged To “Reach The Last Mile” To Eradicate Polio

Global leaders pledged US$2.6 billion to the global fight to eradicate polio at the Reaching the Last Mile (RLM) forum in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, just one day ahead of World Children’s Day. The commitment fulfills part of the first phase of funding requested by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to finance their 2019 – 2023 Polio Endgame Strategy – leaving a gap of some US$670 million.

The pledging event comes on the heels of a major announcement last month that the world has eradicated two of the three wild poliovirus strains, leaving only wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) still in circulation. Additionally, Nigeria – the last country in Africa to have cases of wild polio – has not seen wild polio since 2016 and the entire WHO African region could be certified wild polio-free in 2020, leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan as the last two countries where wild polio still circulates.

A child receives an oral polio vaccine in India.

“From supporting one of the world’s largest health workforces, to reaching every last child with vaccines, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is not only moving us closer to a polio-free world, it’s also building essential health infrastructure to address a range of other health needs,” said World Health Organization Director-General and Chair of the Polio Oversight Board Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press release.

The commitments are critical to continue the momentum of the decades-long polio eradication effort. Barriers to reaching every child – including inconsistent campaign quality, insecurity, conflict, massive mobile populations, and, in some instances, parental refusal to the vaccine – have led to ongoing transmission of the last wild poliovirus strain in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Furthermore, gaps in vaccination coverage in parts of Africa and Asia have resulted in unimmunized children have sparked outbreaks of a rare, vaccine-derived form of the virus.

Pledges came from a variety of donors, such as the host of the pledging moment, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who pledged US$160 million. Commitments also came from classic bilateral donors and the last key countries of the polio campaign, including US $215.92 million from the United States, US$160 million from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, US$105.05 million from Germany, US$84.17 million from the Federal Government of Nigeria, and US$10.83 million from Norway.

Other pledges came from philanthropic organizations and the private sector, such as a $US 1.08 billion commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, US$150 million from Rotary International, and US$50 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The pledges will not just go towards fighting polio, they will also help fund resources and infrastructure built by the GPEI that can support other health needs. In addition to delivering polio vaccines, polio workers deliver Vitamin A supplements, provide other vaccines like those for measles and yellow fever, counsel new mothers on breastfeeding, and help strengthen disease surveillance systems to anticipate and respond to outbreaks.

Image Credits: Jean-Marc Giboux/Rotary International.