By Prudence Arobani
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have commended the 1.2 billion dollars funding initiative to eradicate polio disease in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, and WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, gave the commendations as global health leaders reaffirmed their commitment to fund the eradication of polio in the countries.
The major pledges included 75 million dollars from Canada, 61.4 million dollars from the European Commission, 55 million dollars from Japan, and 30 million dollars from Sheikh Mohamed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Others pledges were 30 million dollars from the Dalio Foundation, 25 million dollars from Bloomberg Philanthropies, 15 million dollars from an anonymous donor, and 13.4 million dollars from Australia.
There were also 11.2 million dollars from Germany, five million dollars each from EasyJet and Italy while the Republic of Korea pledged four million dollars.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership dedicated to ending the disease, announced the pledges at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta.
“Today’s funding commitments will enable the programme to continue to improve performance and overcome challenges to reach every child, including vaccinating children in conflict areas.
“We are truly on the verge of eradicating polio from the planet, but only if we work relentlessly to reach the children we have not yet reached.
“We cannot fail to make this last effort.
“If we do not now make history, we will be judged harshly by history,’’ Lake said.
The UNICEF chief commended efforts towards ending the disease, saying polio has been eliminated from some of the most remote and challenging areas in the world.
“For example, India, once considered the most difficult place in the world to stop the disease, hasn’t reported a case in more than six years.
“No fewer than 16 million children worldwide, who would otherwise have been paralysed by the disease, are walking today,’’ he said.
Similarly, Chan pointed out that polio resources in countries around the world were helping to advance other national health goals.
“The key to ending polio will be to ensure that millions of health workers, some of whom work in the most challenging environments in the world, are able to reach every child, everywhere in the world,’’ Chan said.
She noted that eradicating polio would be a perpetual gift to coming generations.
“Today’s contributions and the continued commitment of all donors and partners will help end this devastating disease.
“It will also ensure that the infrastructure and assets used to fight polio lay the foundation for better health outcomes for children everywhere for years to come.’’
Financing of polio eradication has been remarkably successful over the past years.
Between 1988 and 2013, donors have voluntarily contributed more than 9.5 billion dollars to polio eradication.