Read remarks from WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan about the Gates Foundation grant
This is great news for polio eradication, and great news for public health. The international community has very few opportunities to improve the world in a permanent way. This is one. Polio eradication will be a perpetual gift to all future generations of children, who can grow up free from the risk of this crippling disease.
I thank Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their steadfast support over the years. These and other partners have persevered despite some setbacks in the past.
Today we are closer to the goal of eradicating polio than ever before. Data released last month show that all four countries where polio remains endemic are on track to achieve eradication.
Today’s announcement of US$200 million over the next four years allows us to close in on the goal. A $100 million challenge grant, awarded to Rotary by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is being matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Rotary. This is one of the largest challenge grants ever awarded by the Gates Foundation. It is fully deserved.
Polio eradication is a grand challenge and this is a grand grant. It comes at a crucial point in the initiative. The last endemic pockets of this disease are also the hardest – and the most costly – to reach.
This investment will help us reach the finish line and is precisely the catalyst we need to get additional resources to finish polio. We have the technical tools to do it, and we can achieve a polio-free world if the rest of our financial partners step up to meet the challenge.
We have gained much ground. Over the past 19 years, the incidence of polio has dropped by more than 99 percent. This means a difference between 350,000 children paralyzed every year and the slightly more than 700 affected this year.
There are many people behind this achievement. I want to extend my personal thanks to the 1.2 million Rotary club members worldwide, who have united in the global campaign to eradicate polio.
I want to thank, in particular, your volunteers. They have tirelessly crisscrossed rough terrain, by motorcycle, camel or bike, with vaccines and megaphones, truly putting “Service Above Self”.
I thank you, most especially, on behalf of the millions of children already protected, and the truly untold numbers who will benefit for generations to come.
Read the full press release