Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a renewal of their longstanding partnership that aims to end polio, with a joint commitment of up to $450 million (approximately £398 million) to support the global eradication effort.
Ian Riseley, chair of the Rotary Foundation and Past President of Rotary International, commented:
“We’ve made tremendous progress, but the world is facing multiple pandemics, and vaccine hesitancy is on the rise. Recent polio outbreaks in Malawi and Mozambique, plus detection of poliovirus in Israel, the UK, and the United States prove that if polio exists anywhere, it threatens children everywhere.
Partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helps us ensure that children in polio-affected countries get the lifesaving vaccines they need to be protected from polio for life.”
The pledge follows Rotary’s announcement at the Global Citizen Festival of an additional US$150 million towards polio eradication.
Rotary will raise $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation – adding up to a total of $450 million to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
The Rotary Foundation Board of Trustees recently approved a $50 million grant for AFRO surveillance, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Outbreak Response. These grants will support ongoing immunisation activities to reach children under the age of five with an emphasis on improving community awareness and engagement – promoting vaccine acceptance, reducing the number of missed children, and ensuring robust surveillance capacity to quickly detect poliovirus transmission.
Rotary has contributed more than $2.6 billion to fight polio so far, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, along with volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary partnered with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to form the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). The Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance later joined. Since then, the incidence of polio has fallen by more than 99.9%. Only two countries remain polio-endemic: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:
“Eradicating polio requires the dedication and generosity of nations and individuals around the world, and Rotarians are again leading the way. Rotary International and Rotarians continue to be the heart of GPEI – and have been since the beginning. Together, we are moving closer to our shared goal of ending polio and ensuring that families will never have to fear this disease again.”