Ridding the World of Polio
The GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) Deputy CEO, Helen Evans congratulated the Australian Government and the Gates Foundation on their significant pledges toward the eradication of polio announced in October which builds on their broader commitment to saving the lives of children by providing access to life saving vaccines.
Australia has committed AUD$50 million over four years to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, while the Gates Foundation has committed US$40 million, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia. Ms Evans said that the announcement was timely and appropriate, given that polio is still endemic in three Commonwealth nations, India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Significant funding pledges by the Australian Government and the Gates Foundation towards polio eradication will prevent suffering and assist with eradicating the disease.
"Few people in the developed world realise that polio still a serious problem in a small number of countries, where it continues to cause death and permanent disability," Ms Evans said.
"While the disease is 99% eradicated we have an historic opportunity to take that final step and rid the world of polio. It's time to seize the moment and consign polio to the history books as we did with small pox."
Ms Evans said that while today's funding pledge was crucial, money alone would not solve the polio problem.
"Vaccinating the final one per cent is very difficult because we're talking about children in conflict zones and rural and very inaccessible areas," Ms Evans said.
"The political commitment expressed today by heads of government at the CHOGM meeting, community awareness and education are all vital to achieving complete eradication of polio.
"The stakes are high. Polio is a highly infectious disease and until we eradicate it entirely, we run the risk of escalating numbers of cases."