Rotary gives US$40 million to fund polio eradication efforts in nine countries
First portion of $100 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
(Evanston , IL – USA – 20 March 2008) Rotary International announced that its first installment of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s $100 million challenge grant will go to nine countries battling polio, a crippling and sometimes fatal disease that still paralyzes children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East .
Rotary received a $100-million Gates Foundation grant in 2007, which the humanitarian service organization will raise funds to match, dollar-for-dollar, over three years. As part of the agreement, Rotary will spend the initial $100 million within one year in direct support of immunization activities carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.
The disbursement of $40 million will be used by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to support mass immunization campaigns, poliovirus surveillance activities and community education and outreach in the four remaining polio-endemic countries – Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan – plus five others where the poliovirus has crossed borders with the neighboring endemic countries – Chad, DR Congo, Niger, Somalia and Sudan.
“This tremendous support comes at a crucial time for the polio eradication effort,” said Gianni Murzi, UNICEF’s representative in India .
India holds the highest number of polio cases of any single country, having reported 866 out of a global total of 1,308 cases in 2007. “With n ew methods and more effective vaccines, we have the tools to beat polio in India ,” said Deepak Kapur, chair of India ’s PolioPlus committee for Rotary. “Now is the time to step up the momentum to get polio out of India forever.”
Nigeria, once the global epicenter of polio has seen a 75 percent decline in cases between 2006, when 1,122 cases were reported, and 2007, which had 286 cases, http://www.polioeradication.org/casecount.asp . More than 41 million Nigerian children under five years were targeted for vaccination in February.
Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed US$700 million, a figure that will increase to $850 million by the time the world is certified polio-free. Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.
With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of a global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. Since the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, when 125 countries were polio-endemic and more than 350,000 children paralyzed by the disease each year, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent.
Rotary International is the world’s first and one of the largest non-profit humanitarian service organizations. It is comprised of 1.2 million business and professional leaders in 200 countries and geographical regions. Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues such as violence, AIDS, hunger, the environment and health care.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
For further information visit www.rotary.org or www.polioeradication.org