Saudi Arabia delivers first half of its US$30 million commitment

Joining the effort to bring about a polio-free world

On the left, WHO Assistant-Director General Bruce Aylward exchanges the memorandum with Hasan Al-Attass on the right, Director General for the Technical Department of SDF. WHO/S. Bari

Geneva – The World Health Organization and the Saudi Fund for Development signed today a memorandum of understanding for the latter to contribute US$ 5 million to WHO, for the cost of polio eradication operations in Yemen and Sudan. The funds are part of a US$30 million commitment to polio eradication; US$ 10 million of this has been contributed to UNICEF for the purchase of oral polio vaccine.

During the week of 24 October, Yemen is vaccinating nearly 5 million children with oral polio vaccine (OPV), joining countries across Africa and Asia that are currently conducting campaigns to immunize over 80 million children. Sudan will conduct activities in November and December, reaching over 6.5 million children.

The Saudi Fund for Development’s contribution comes at a critical moment as children remain vulnerable to polio in both Yemen and Sudan due to ongoing instability in some areas, and large movements of populations. Preventive vaccination campaigns with OPV will help increase the immunity levels against polio in both countries, and reduce the chances of a large polio outbreak if the countries experience wild poliovirus importations from other regions in Africa or Asia.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration, Dr. Bruce Aylward welcomed the contribution: “This new commitment from Saudi Arabia enables the last steps towards the eradication of this ancient disease, and we hope it will inspire others in the region to bring their considerable financial and political support to ending polio and protecting the most vulnerable.”

“The fight against polio is a global challenge for all of us,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “Its defeat will be a ringing victory for all of humanity – marking only the second time in history a disease has been eradicated. With this generous donation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia we move closer to achieving this goal, and to saving millions of people from the threat of this crippling disease.”

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