Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary commit up to $450 million to eradicate polio

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Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are renewing their longstanding partnership to end polio, announcing a joint commitment of up to $450 million to support the global polio eradication effort.

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“Because of the efforts of Rotary and its partners, almost 19 million people are walking today who would have otherwise been paralyzed,” said John Germ, Past President of Rotary International who leads Rotary’s polio fundraising efforts. “By partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re ensuring that children in polio-affected countries get the lifesaving vaccines they need to be protected from polio for life. As the first organization to envision a polio-free world, Rotary is more committed than ever to delivering on our promise that one day, no child will ever again be paralyzed by polio.”

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To an audience of Rotary volunteer leaders from around the world, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation delivered a video message announcing the extension of a funding partnership forged more than a decade ago. Rotary is committed to raising $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation. This expanded agreement will translate into up to $450 million for polio eradication activities.

“The Gates Foundation’s longstanding partnership with Rotary has been vital to fighting polio,” said Mr. Gates in today’s message to Rotary volunteers. “That’s why we’re extending our funding match, so every dollar that Rotary raises is met with two more. I believe that together, we can make eradication a reality.”

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In addition to the extended funding partnership with the Gates Foundation, Rotary is also announcing US$45 million in funding for polio eradication efforts in countries throughout Africa (Angola, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan), and Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan and the Philippines). The funding will help support crucial polio eradication activities such as immunization and disease detection, research, and community mobilization.

Polio—a paralyzing and sometimes deadly disease—is on the verge of becoming the second human disease in history to be eradicated. This critical funding helps ensure that children in at-risk countries are protected from polio, and that the wild poliovirus is eliminated in the last two countries that continue to report cases.

While only Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to report cases of wild poliovirus, the remaining challenges to global eradication—like difficulty reaching children amid insecurity and conflict and weak health systems—have proven to be the most difficult. In order to meet these roadblocks head on and ensure the continuation of program efforts, funding and support from donors and world governments is imperative.

Rotary has contributed more than $2 billion to fight polio, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance later joined. When the initiative launched, there were 350,000 cases of polio every year. Today the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent.

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