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European Commission, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Others Commit €1.1billion to End Polio Virus

By Obiabin Onukwugha

The European Commission, European Investment Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a new financing partnership to address critical global health opportunities, which include eradicating polio and ensuring that innovations in health are more accessible to the people who need them most.

The partnership is contained in a report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Wednesday.

According to the report, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, as implementing partners for the polio funding, will deploy the resources to eradicate polio, support the distribution of other childhood immunizations and strengthen health systems so they are better able to respond to emerging health threats.

The agency said the expected €1.1 billion financing package aims to provide new funding to eradicate a human disease for only the second time in history and help solve the health and development challenges faced by the world’s most vulnerable people, who otherwise do not get fair access to healthcare services and innovations.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “We are about to wipe polio off the face of the Earth. The European Commission, the EIB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are partnering to get through the final stretch.

“With one billion euros supported by our European investment strategy Global Gateway, we will invest in stronger health systems globally and local vaccine and medicines production, manufacturing and administration, where it is most needed. Global cooperation has helped us put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it will help us get rid of polio once and for all.”

The partnership, according to WHO, marks a significant increase in funding for global health and human development under the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+) and is expected to include a match of new complementary funding for global health by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, thus maximising the impact of every Euro committed by the EU and the European Investment Bank.

“Today we are united to write the final chapter in the history of polio. The European Investment Bank is playing its part in a unique partnership with philanthropy and health partners, by providing EUR 500 million for investment in support of the Global Polio Eradication Programme. This initiative will be a milestone in scaling up immunization and strengthening healthcare, ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, can be protected against polio,” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.

WHO further stated that, to promote swift progress towards eradicating wild polio virus, the partnership aims to deliver €500 million in payments to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, specifically the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The funds, the agency said, will cover polio vaccinations for nearly 370 million children annually; deliver vital health services to children alongside polio campaigns, including measles vaccines and other routine immunizations; and strengthen health systems to better prepare and respond to emerging health threats, as the polio program has done against COVID-19, Ebola, and other diseases.

“Today, wild polio virus remains endemic in just two countries; Pakistan and Afghanistan and 80% of variant polio virus cases are found in just four subnational regions.

“Thanks to medical innovations, the world eradicated one human disease, smallpox. Today we’re on the verge of ending another, wild polio virus. I am committed to ensuring that no child, anywhere in the world, faces this awful disease. I am also optimistic that we will eradicate polio once and for all and make health innovations more accessible for everyone, particularly those in the poorest countries,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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