Gates Foundation pledges $1.2 billion to Polio eradication

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As health professionals from all over the world gathered in Berlin for a meeting, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Sunday that it will contribute $1.2 billion to the effort to eradicate polio.

“Polio eradication is within reach. But as far as we have come, the disease remains a threat,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the foundation, said in a statement.

The funding will go to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a national government-led public-private collaboration with the goal of eradicating the illness by 2026.

A virus that enters the central nervous system and damages cells in the spinal cord and brain is the main cause of the extremely contagious disease polio.

Those who survive the illness are frequently left paralysed or with atrophied and deformed limbs.

Children under the age of five are most usually affected by polio, although everyone who has not had the vaccine is susceptible.

As per a statement from the foundation, the GPEI has helped prevent more than 20 million cases of paralysis and reduced the number of occurrences of polio by more than 99 percent globally since its inception in 1988.

Although Malawi and Mozambique also discovered imported wild polio cases in 2022, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two nations where the wild poliovirus is still endemic.

“Despite this historic progress, interruptions in routine immunisation, vaccine misinformation, political unrest, and the tragic floods in Pakistan in 2022 have underscored the urgent need to finish the job against polio,” the foundation said.

Another concern is that “countries that had previously eliminated all forms of poliovirus have recently reported new detections of the virus”, such as Britain and the US, it said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, and the World Health Organization (WHO) are participants in the GPEI (CDC).

(With inputs from agencies)

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