Rotary International and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have joined hands to fund the gap in the new strategic plan announced by Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) towards polio eradication.

The projected cost of the GPEI ‘2013-2018 Strategic Plan’ against polio is $5.5 billion. The Gates Foundation has announced it would contribute twice the amount raised by Rotary International, one of the spearheading partners of the GPEI.

Since the global campaign’s inception, Rotary International has contributed $ 1.2 billion and continues to ensure that the campaign does not suffer paucity of funds. In 2007, the Gates Foundation gave the Rotary Foundation a $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication, and in 2009, increased it to $355 million. Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds by 30 June 2012, but Rotarians in fact raised $228.7 million toward the challenge.

“Going forward, the Gates Foundation will match two-to-one, up to $35 million per year, every dollar rotary commits to reduce the funding shortfall for polio eradication through 2018,” CEO of the Gates Foundation Jeff Rikes said.

The 2013-18 Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan’s estimated cost is $5.5 billion and a funding commitment of $4 billion has already been announced at the Global Vaccine Summit in April 2013. However, unless the current deficit is met, the anti-polio campaign is not full-proof.

Analysing the present critical phase of the polio end game, Deepak Kapur, chairman of the Rotary’s India National Polio Plus Committee, who has been leading the effort for Rotary in India for the last decade said, “GPEI’s six-year end polio strategy is a global immunisation plan with the goal of ending polio while improving efforts to protect all children, including the most vulnerable, with life-saving vaccines.”

India has gone over two successful years without a case of polio and the surveillance and monitoring report indicate another strong year for India to finally clinch the regional polio-free certification in 2014.

However, the danger of virus importation exists because of neighbouring polio endemic countries. The eradication effort in Pakistan has been sabotaged by radical groups who have killed some polio workers. The campaign, however, is struggling to get back on track there.

With the recent setbacks in the African countries and the conflict in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there are a lot of questions on whether the world can actually be polio free by 2018 as set by GPEI.

“Since the six-year plan addresses all possible issues related to polio outbreak, the strategy should not be affected due to financial crunches. If allowed, polio can rebound and consequently, within a decade more than 2,00,000 children worldwide could be paralysed every year, challenging countries like India where a child is born every second and needs protection,” Mr. Kapur added.

Globally, polio has decreased by 99 per cent to just 69 cases this year (as of 19 June), and only three countries — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria — remain endemic for the disease.

  • The six-year plan addresses all possible issues on polio outbreak: Kapur

  • Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria still remain endemic to polio