Australia pledges $80 million to end polio
Renewing its stance as a global leader in polio eradication
The government’s announcement was made during a whirlwind visit by Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates, on 28 May. Addressing a room full of journalists and politicians at a function hosted by the National Press Club in Canberra, Mr Gates said, “Finishing polio really is worth it. It’ll improve these health systems and save so much money.”
Australia’s renewed funding will go towards the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018, which was shared with world leaders at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi late last month and was recently endorsed by the World Health Assembly. The plan has so far received overwhelming support, with governments and private philanthropists making substantial pledges, including Mr Gates – who announced that his foundation would be chipping in US$1.8 billion to end this disease.
The Global Poverty Project’s The End of Polio campaign has been working with partner organizations to raise awareness and lobby the Australian Government for further support for polio eradication – including partnering with UNICEF to run an event at Australia’s Parliament House earlier this year. The campaign has been working alongside Rotarians and others to convince the government that eradicating polio isn’t just the right thing to do, but what the Australian public wants them to do.
“Our supporters have been incredible,” said Michael Sheldrick, the 25-year-old Australian who runs The End of Polio campaign internationally. “They’ve signed petitions, tweeted, called, emailed and visited their political representatives in person to convince them that polio eradication is an issue worth caring about. In the week leading up to this announcement, they sent more than 150 letters to Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s office, calling on him to commit additional funding.
More than US$4 billion has been pledged so far towards the new plan’s US$5.5 billion total budget. While this is a substantial commitment, a funding gap of around US$1.5 billion remains. The full funding, up front, of the new strategic plan will be critical if this disease is to finally be eradicated.