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Friday, September 29, 2023

Rotary targets Nigeria, others under $35m polio lifeline

Nigeria and four other African countries are beneficiaries to a $15 million grant aimed at keeping the continent polio-free. This is part of the $35 million announced in the US on Wednesday by Rotary in grants aimed at supporting the global effort to end polio.

Victims of polio
Victims of polio

While Nigeria will receive $5.5 million, Cameroon gets $1.6 million, Chad $2 million, Ethiopia $4.1 million, and Somalia $1,8 million.

Additional funds will be used to support polio eradication efforts in endemic and at-risk countries like Pakistan ($11.4 million), Afghanistan ($6 million), Iraq ($1.6 million) and India ($600,000). About $350,000 in funds will be dedicated to polio research.

According to Rotary, Africa in 2015 proved a hub of historic progress against the paralysing disease. Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – was removed from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) list of endemic countries in September, following one year without a new case of the wild virus. The last wild polio case on the African continent was in August 2014.

“We are closer than ever to achieving a polio-free world,” said Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “To ensure that no child ever again suffers the devastating effects of this disease, we must all ensure that the necessary funds and political will are firmly in place in 2016.”

He added that, today, just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – are reporting a single strain of the wild virus.

To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is urgently needed. Without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk, noted McGovern.

Rotary launched its polio immunisation programme PolioPlus in 1985 and, in 1988, became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, which was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has reportedly plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 70 confirmed to date in 2015.

Rotary has contributed over $1.5 billion and volunteer hours to fight polio.

According to McGovern, through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.

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