Michael R. Bloomberg today announced a $100 million donation to support polio eradication efforts through Bloomberg Philanthropies. The donation will help fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) six year plan to eradicate polio.
Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to paralysis or death. Due to tremendous advances in 2012, there are today the fewest number of polio cases in the fewest countries ever, creating a unique opportunity to end the disease forever. In response, the GPEI has developed a long-term strategy to achieve global eradication by 2018. The eradication strategy addresses all aspects of ending polio, including stopping transmission, strengthening routine immunization, addressing challenges such as insecurity and access, and preparing the polio infrastructure to reach children with other health services. Polio partner organizations, donors and endemic countries are actively working to secure the necessary funds to ensure money is not a barrier to the plan’s success.
“It’s unthinkable that polio still exists in the world when we have the tools and technology to protect children from this preventable, debilitating disease. Now is the time to invest in making polio history. Doing so will protect future generations of children and pave the way for other life-saving interventions to reach the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Bloomberg. “We are thrilled to join the Gates Foundation and other partners in the effort to end this disease once and for all.”
“We’re at a critical juncture in the global effort to end polio. If we’re going to achieve a polio-free world, we must act quickly and commit now to providing the resources needed to fund the GPEI plan and to get the job done. Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment is a key development in helping to ensure that all children are protected from this and other vaccine-preventable diseases. I look forward to continuing to work with him on this and other critical global health initiatives,” said Gates.
The number of polio cases plunged to the lowest level ever in 2012 - less than 225 cases - and the number of countries where polio transmission has never been stopped was reduced to three - Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. India, long-regarded as the nation facing the greatest challenges to ending polio, was declared polio-free in February 2012. In response, the World Health Assembly declared ending polio a “programmatic global health emergency” and the Presidents of Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are overseeing the implementation of emergency action plans in their countries. These plans have led to significant advancements in the efforts to reach hard-to-access children with the polio vaccine. Last year, Pakistan reduced cases by two-thirds and Afghanistan by half, but the number of cases in Nigeria doubled.
Mayor Bloomberg’s commitment is the result of a deepening collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the field of global health. Ending polio is one of the Gates Foundation’s top priorities. The Gates Foundation has partnered with the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco use, and last year, the two foundations joined with other partners from around the world to fund a groundbreaking global family planning initiative to extend information and services to 120 million women by 2020.
GPEI’s Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 is spearheaded by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in broad consultation with countries, donors, vaccine manufacturers, regulatory agencies and national and international advisory bodies. The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization in November 2012 followed by the WHO Executive Board in January 2013 endorsed the major objectives of the Plan and its associated milestones. Finalization of the Plan is anticipated in March 2013.