Rotary Club has announced $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, including $15 million to support polio eradication efforts in five African countries.
In 2015, Africa proved a hub of historic progress against the paralyzing disease.
Rotary’s funds will support efforts to keep five countries in Africa polio-free, including Nigeria ($5.5 million), Cameroon ($1.6 million), Chad ($2 million), Ethiopia ($4.1 million) and Somalia ($1.8 million).
Additional funds will also be used to support polio eradication efforts in endemic and at-risk countries, including Pakistan ($11.4 million), Afghanistan ($6 million), Iraq ($1.6 million) and India ($600,000).
Finally, $350,000 will be dedicated to polio research.
Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – was removed from the World Health Organization’s list of endemic countries in September last year, following a one-year period of unrecorded new cases 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.
Currently, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the two countries 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, adding that without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.
Rotary launched its polio immunization programme – PolioPlus – in 1985 and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Since the initiative was launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 70 confirmed cases by the close of 2015.
Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication would be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.