The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is greatly concerned by the United Kingdom’s proposed cuts to contributions toward polio eradication in 2021. The proposed 95% reduction will result in an enormous setback to the eradication effort at a critical moment.
The UK has a long legacy as a leader in global health and its leadership in polio eradication, including financial contributions to the GPEI, have driven wild poliovirus out of all but two countries in the world. The GPEI values the UK government’s steadfast partnership and shared commitment to eradicating polio, and UK citizens have generously championed the drive to end polio. This has helped bring the world to the cusp of being polio-free, whilst providing an investment in broader public health capacity.
In 2019, the UK government pledged to help vaccinate more than 400 million children a year against polio and to support 20 million health workers and volunteers in this vital work. In addition to their life-saving work to end polio, these health workers have been in the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 and have helped some of the world’s most vulnerable countries protect their citizens. The UK’s ongoing support is needed to ensure that the polio infrastructure can continue supporting COVID-19 response efforts, while also resuming lifesaving immunization services against other deadly childhood diseases. In 2020, the UK government’s contributions ensured that the GPEI could continue to support outbreak response in 25 countries and conduct surveillance in nearly 50, all whilst strengthening health systems. The continuation of such support will not be possible unless replacement funds are identified, and as such, this funding cut will have a potentially devastating impact on the polio eradication program.
The GPEI recognises the challenging economic circumstances faced by the UK government and a host of other countries. Governments worldwide are making critical investments in the health of their citizens, as well as evaluating global commitments. Cutting the UK government’s contributions by 95% will, however, put millions of children at increased risk of diseases such as polio and will weaken the ability of countries to detect and respond to outbreaks of polio and other infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Furthermore, it risks delaying polio eradication and the dismantling of one of the most effective disease surveillance and response networks at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues its devastation.
GPEI looks forward to working with the UK and the broader global community to address these urgent issues, which jeopardize the collective investment and progress toward a polio free world. Together we can end polio forever and ensure that polio infrastructure and its assets continue to strengthen preparedness and response and save lives.
On 27 November, Barry Rassin, Rotary International President, presented the Polio Eradication Champion Award to UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, for her exemplary leadership role in driving the cause of eradicating polio. In 2017, the UK pledged US$ 130 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) for 2017-2019. So far, the country’s total financial contribution is US$ 1.6 billion, the second highest amount from a G7 donor. The UK has also been a strong advocate of the cause.
The Polio Eradication Champion Award was established in 1996 to honour heads of state, leaders of health agencies, and other inspiring individuals who have played an instrumental role in ending polio. Theresa May joins an illustrious list of past award winners including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
“Britain’s leadership in making multiyear commitments in support of global polio eradication has been an example for other countries to follow,” said Barry Rassin at the occasion.
Citing dramatic gains achieved with polio vaccines, Prime Minister David Cameron joins Bill and Melinda Gates to call on world leaders to finish the job
DAVOS, Switzerland – British Prime Minister David Cameron said on 28 January that the United Kingdom would double its current contribution to polio eradication.
Mr Cameron called on other donors to back the Global Polio Eradication Initiative as he announced the UK’s commitment that will see an extra 45 million children fully vaccinated against the disease. Noting the question of international development assistance in the current financial climate, Mr Cameron said, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing.”
In 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by 99 percent and the disease is now close to being only the second in history – after smallpox – to be wiped out. In 2010, India and Nigeria – historically the toughest challenges to eradication – cut cases by 95 percent each. However, until eradicated, polio remains a threat to children everywhere.
The new contributions build on the progress to date in bringing polio close to eradication, due in no small part to the leadership of Rotary International. Both Mr Cameron and Mr Gates paid tribute to Rotarians, who will have contributed nearly US$ 1.1 billion to polio eradication.
Prime Minister Cameron said: “I passionately believe that we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rid the world of the evil of polio. We have the vaccines and the tools to do it. All that’s missing is real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end.”
The contribution from the UK is structured as a matching grant, to broaden the support base for polio eradication. For every $5 pledged by others from 1 January 2011 to 31 December 2012, the UK will increase its support by $1 up to a maximum of the additional £40m announced.
Full press release and blog from Andrew Mitchell, UK International Development Secretary.
UN Secretary General recognizes polio workers and volunteers
Birmingham, UK – In the final push to rid the world of a crippling and potentially fatal disease, Rotary International today announced that it has raised US$ 90.7 million toward its US$ 200 Million Challenge, a fundraising effort supporting crucial polio eradication activities.
The announcement came at the Rotary International Convention, where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was presented with a Polio Eradication Champion award, which he dedicated to polio workers who were killed last year in Afghanistan.