Global Health Community Commits Over $630 Million in Aggressive Push for Polio Eradication


    Rotary International, Gates Foundation, United Kingdom, and Germany
pledge critically needed funds and urge donor and endemic country governments
to help end crippling childhood disease

    SAN DIEGO, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Rotary International, the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the British and German governments today
committed more than $630 million in new funds to fight polio, a crippling and
sometimes fatal disease that still paralyzes children in parts of Africa and
Asia and threatens children everywhere.  In addition to pledging needed funds,
leaders urged additional donors and leaders of countries where polio still
exists to join them in an aggressive push for eradication.

    The Gates Foundation is awarding a $255 million challenge grant to
Rotary, which Rotary will match with $100 million raised by its members over
the next three years.  At the same time, the United Kingdom is giving an
additional $150 million (100 million pounds sterling) and Germany is giving an
additional $130 million (EUR 100 million), both to the Global Polio
Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Contributions from the U.K. and Germany over
the next five years will not count toward Rotary's match of the Gates
Foundation challenge grant.

    As a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
(GPEI), Rotary's chief role is fundraising, advocacy, and mobilizing
volunteers. The announcements came during the Rotary International Assembly,
the humanitarian service organization's annual leadership conference.

    "Rotarians, government leaders, and health professionals have made a
phenomenal commitment so polio afflicts only a small number of the world's
children," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation. "However,
complete elimination of the polio virus is difficult and will continue to be
difficult for a number of years. Rotary in particular has inspired my own
personal commitment to get deeply involved in achieving eradication."

    In accepting the Gates challenge, Rotary Foundation Chair Jonathan
Majiyagbe said the funding partnership will inspire other polio eradication
allies, both current and new, to ramp up their support.

    "With the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are on the
brink of eradicating one of the most feared diseases in the world," Majiyagbe
said. "This shared commitment of Rotary and the Gates Foundation should
encourage governments and nongovernmental organizations to ensure that
resources and the will of the world are available to end polio once and for

    UK International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said, "This 100
million pounds sterling pledge by the UK Government, combined with the money
from our other partners, is a massive boost in the battle to rid the world of
the scourge of polio. We have already significantly increased the number of
vaccinations for those people most at risk, and there has been real progress
in reducing the number of new infections. Now is the time to make the final
push to eradicate polio. This investment will ensure future generations in the
developing world will no longer have their lives blighted by this crippling

    New funding and government support still required

    The polio eradication initiative faces an ongoing funding shortfall that
must be closed if eradication is to be achieved. With these new investments,
along with contributions received from Canada, Russia, the United States and
other donors, the shortfall for 2009-10 is $340 million. The new funding from
Germany will further reduce the gap.

    "G-8 countries pledged repeatedly to take all necessary steps to
eradicate polio," said Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, German Minister for Economic
Cooperation and Development. "Germany has contributed significantly to living
up to this commitment. We urge other countries to join us in closing the
funding gap and ensuring that health workers have the support they need to
protect the world's children from polio."

    Polio has been completely eliminated in the Americas, the Western
Pacific, and Europe, but the wild polio virus persists in Afghanistan, India,
Nigeria, and Pakistan, and imported cases from these countries threaten other
developing nations. It is in these four countries that the most serious
challenges exist, including vaccine effectiveness (India), low vaccination
coverage rates (Nigeria), and access problems due to conflict (Afghanistan and
Pakistan). Much depends on the countries themselves.  Recent progress in key
areas has shown that these challenges can be overcome with sufficient national
and sub-national commitment.

    Launched in 1988, the GPEI -- spearheaded by Rotary, the World Health
Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF --
has reduced the number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two decades,
from more than 350,000 cases in 1988 to an estimated 1,600 in 2008.

    The GPEI partners will use the new polio eradication funds to support a
range of activities, including:

    --  National Immunization Days, when countries aim to immunize every child
        under five years old with oral polio vaccine
    --  Supplemental immunization activities focused on providing extra
        vaccinations to children in high-risk areas
    --  Research into new vaccines and ways to ensure they are available to
        vulnerable children
    --  Surveillance activities to detect cases of polio so that progress can
        be measured and outbreaks contained

    WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said:  "Together with enhanced
commitment by the last four endemic countries at all levels, the new funding
commitments are precisely what is needed to help the governments in these
countries overcome the remaining barriers to reaching every child with polio

    "Successfully eradicating polio is crucially important, not just to
ensure that no child will ever again be paralyzed by this devastating disease,
but also to show that today -- in the 21st century -- we can deliver
life-saving health interventions to every single child, no matter where they
live, and even in the most difficult and challenging environments," said Dr.
Chan, who in 2008 made polio eradication WHO's top operational priority.

    This is the second challenge grant for polio eradication the Gates
Foundation has given Rotary. The first came in November 2007, when Rotary
agreed to match a $100 million grant dollar-for-dollar.

    Rotary clubs worldwide already are hard at work raising the matching
funds for what the organization has named Rotary's $200 Million Challenge.
Since the first Gates Foundation challenge grant was announced, Rotary clubs
have raised more than $60 million toward the goal. Their enthusiastic
commitment was a major reason the second challenge was made and accepted.
Rotary also invites the general public to participate by visiting to learn about polio eradication and contribute to
Rotary's $200 Million Challenge.

    For video and still photos go to:

    About Rotary International
    Founded in Chicago in 1905, Rotary is a worldwide organization of
business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to
build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary's global membership is
approximately 1.2 million men and women who belong to more than 32,000 Rotary
clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

    About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
    Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In
developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them
the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty.  In the
United States, it seeks to ensure that all people--especially those with the
fewest resources--have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in
school and life.  Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes
and co-chair William H. Gates, Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda
Gates. More information is available at


For further information:

For further information: Rotary International, +1-847-866-3234,; or Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, +1-206-709-3400, Web Site:       

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