Copyright© Dirk Michael Deckbar
Global Polio Eradication Initiative Minister Schulze says: “A world without polio is becoming possible”
Press release 18 October 2022 | Today, a donor conference in Berlin mobilised 2.6 billion US dollars for the fight against polio. Using the money mobilised today, the international community wants to defeat this disease by 2026, immunising 370 million children a year against polio in pursuit of that goal. Development Minister Svenja Schulze was co-host of the conference, which took place as part of the World Health Summit.
Germany has pledged 35 million euros this year for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Another 37 million euros has been earmarked for 2023, subject to parliamentary approval. In recent years, new cases of polio have also occurred in countries that were supposedly free of polio. The aim of the new GPEI strategy is to interrupt chains of infection by 2023 and completely eradicate polio by 2026.
Development Minister Svenja Schulze said: “A world without polio is becoming possible. That’s the good news from this conference. We can only win the fight against polio if we tackle it worldwide. As long as the virus still exists somewhere in the world, it can spread again – in our own country, too. We now have a realistic chance to eradicate polio completely, and we want to jointly seize that chance. This is why Germany will remain a strong and committed partner in the global fight against polio. And by supporting the GPEI, we are also strengthening national health systems. That will lead to healthier societies, far beyond the polio response.”
During the pledging moment, to which Minister Schulze had invited Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, and Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, 17 private and public sector donors made pledges.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, said: “The new detections of polio this year in previously polio-free countries are a stark reminder that if we do not deliver our goal of ending polio everywhere, it may resurge globally. We are grateful for donors’ new and continued support for eradication, but there is further work to do to fully fund the 2022-2026 Strategy. We must remember the significant challenges we have overcome to get this far against polio, stay the course and finish the job once and for all.”
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said: “Children deserve to live in a polio-free world, but as we have seen this year with painful clarity, until we reach every community and vaccinate every child, the threat of polio will persist. UNICEF is grateful for the generosity of our donors and the pledges made today, which will help us finish the job of eradiating polio. When we invest in immunization and health systems, we are investing in a safer, healthier future for everyone, everywhere.”
There are now only two countries left where clusters of polio cases still occur, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apart from that, the GPEI also supports what it calls outbreak countries. Although they have already eradicated polio, these countries are still under threat of new infections either through importation of the virus or through what is known as vaccine-derived poliovirus. In addition to that, there are other countries which are considered to be at risk of the disease returning because they have yet to achieve sufficient levels of population immunity and their health surveillance systems are inadequate. As a result, isolated cases of polio continue to occur in countries that are supposedly free of the disease. This makes it clear just how important it is to finally eradicate all occurrences of the poliovirus.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative plans to use the funds that have been mobilised to vaccinate 370 million children a year against polio over the next five years, and to carry out global surveillance against polio and other diseases in 50 countries. These measures represent a realistic chance to eradicate polio completely. This could mean a saving of some 33 billion US dollars this century, money that would otherwise have to be spent on fighting the disease.
Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was founded in 1985, more than 2.5 billion children have been protected against polio through vaccination. As a result, the number of people getting polio has fallen by 99 per cent. Today, more than 20 million people are able to walk who would otherwise have been paralysed by the virus. In addition to fighting polio, the health structures financed via funds for polio also make a valuable contribution towards building resilient health systems in the countries concerned. In 2020, for example, more than 31,000 health staff from polio programmes were deployed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Germany is the GPEI’s third largest public sector donor and has so far made 772 million US dollars available.
The pledging moment was organised as part of the World Health Summit in Berlin. Present at the event were high-level representatives from global health and development policymaking and from countries affected by polio, along with polio survivors. Another topic also discussed was how the measures to eradicate polio contribute towards strengthening national health systems in partner countries, for instance through training given to health workers or the development of laboratory capacities. Polio survivors also spoke about their personal experiences with the disease.
More information about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative: www.polioeradication.org (External link)
List of pledges made during the pledging moment at the donor conference in Berlin, 18 October 2022
Australia: 43.55 million Australian Dollars
France: 50 million euros
Germany: 72 million euros
Japan: 11 million US Dollars
South Korea: 4.5 billion South Korean Won
Luxembourg: 1.7 million euros
Malta: 30,000 euros
Monaco: 450,000 euros
Spain: 100,000 euros
Turkey: 20,000 US dollars
USA: 114 million US dollars
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: 1.2 billion US dollars
Bloomberg Philanthropies: 50 million US dollars
Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America: 1.8 million US dollars
Latter-day Saint Charities: 400,.000 US dollars
Rotary International: 150 million US dollars
UNICEF: 5 million US dollars