Three quarters of money to eradicate polio have been raised

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 26 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2720
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

More than $4bn (£2.6bn; €3.1bn) has been raised for the six year plan to wipe polio from the world map, $1.5bn short of the $5.5bn needed.

The announcement that $4.035bn had been raised was made at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi where governments, philanthropists, and civil society made pledges to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which earlier this month unveiled its plan to eradicate polio from the world by 2018.1

The biggest donation—$1.8bn—came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with other important donors including the UK government, which pledged $457m, and the Islamic Development Bank pledging $227m.

Bill Gates, who has said that eradicating polio is his top priority, told the summit that 40% of the funding came from philanthropists and 60% from governments.

“One thing we can say is that based on what’s happened here today, the financing will not be the thing that stands in the way of achieving the miracle of polio eradication,” he said.

To raise the rest of the money, Gates said that he would look to previously generous donors, such as the United States, Japan, and Australia, which have so far made only small contributions. The US has only pledged $90.6m and Japan $1m. The initiative is looking to raise the $5.5bn upfront and many countries prefer to make yearly donations, said Gates.

So far this year, there have been 19 cases of polio compared with 47 in the same period in 2012. The cases occurred in the three remaining endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

Shahnaz Wazir Ali, special adviser on polio to the Pakistani prime minister, told the summit of her government’s efforts to ensure that the polio immunisation campaign continues despite attacks on its workers.2 3 4 She said that dangers still exist and that it was hard to predict when and where the next attack would be.

“We were not expecting this level of hostility and targeted attacks. There had been some resistance and of course there are reservations about the polio vaccine. These attacks are also in many ways political statements and are not just about stopping a polio worker from administering a polio vaccine,” she said.

Wazir Ali said that Pakistan had stepped up security for polio teams.

“Polio teams are partnered with security personnel when they go to the field in areas where we have some anticipated information and knowledge about where a threat is going to take place,” she said.

She stated that countering hostility to the vaccine was important.

“What we would like to see is a proactive demand for immunisation. But how do we move to that situation? That for us is quite a major challenge,” she added.

Nigeria has also seen attacks on its health workers but the country’s health minister, Muhammad Pate, told the summit that his country had rejected bringing in the army to protect polio workers.

“We believe working with partners is the way to go without militarising the programme,” he said.

Deepak Kapur, who worked on India’s polio eradication campaign for Rotary International, talked of the hostility the campaign faced there, with cases of polio workers being thrown off roofs. The campaign faced the greatest hostility from religious leaders in Uttar Pradesh, who were gathered into one room by campaign workers.

“We talked about the need for immunisation and told them it was their beholden duty to god to save the children. They eventually came on board,” he said.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2720