In advance of the Oct. 24 observance of World Polio Day 2014, Rotary has announced US$ 8.4 million in grants to combat polio in Nigeria. The funds, part of Rotary’s broader contribution of $44.7 million to end the paralyzing disease worldwide will be used by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to support high quality polio immunization campaigns in Nigeria.
For the second year in a row, Rotary will mark World Polio Day with a livestream event featuring a global status update on the fight to end polio as well as an array of guest speakers and performers. The event, which will stream live from Chicago, Ill., can be viewed at endpolio, org, said Rotary.
The funding commitment comes as Nigeria celebrates a 90 percent reduction in polio cases compared to this time last year, with only six cases recorded to date in 2014. As recently as 2012, Nigeria reported the highest number of polio cases in the world. Along with Pakistan and Afghanistan – Nigeria is one of only three countries where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped.
“Our country should be incredibly proud of the progress we have made towards ending polio in our borders,” said Dr. Tunji Funsho, Rotary’s National PolioPlus Chair for Nigeria. “However, even six cases are too many. We cannot and we will not stop fighting this disease until every child in Nigeria – and the world – is safe from this crippling disease.”
Experts warn that Nigeria’s progress against polio, while significant, is fragile. The recent decline in polio cases is due in large part to the attention of leaders at all levels of the Nigerian government in ending this disease.
“High-level oversight of the polio program must continue, even during upcoming presidential and state elections and during efforts to keep Ebola out of Nigeria’s borders,” said Dr. Funsho.
Rotary provides grant funding to polio eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), which work with the governments and Rotary club members of polio-affected countries to plan and carry out immunization activities. Mass immunizations of children via the oral polio vaccine must continue until global eradication is achieved.
About $18.5 million will go to the three remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Another $9.5 million is marked for previously polio-free countries currently reporting cases “imported” from the endemic countries: Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Somalia. And $10.4 million will go to polio-free countries that remain at risk of reinfection: Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Niger, South Sudan, and Sudan.
The remaining $6.3 million will go toward polio eradication research.
To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.3 billion to fight polio. Through 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will match two-to-one every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication (up to $35 million a year).