Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are renewing their longstanding partnership to end polio, announcing a joint commitment of up to $450 million to support the global polio eradication effort.
“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,” said Ian Riseley, chair of the Rotary Foundation and Past President of Rotary International. “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.”
This pledge comes on the heels of Rotary’s announcement at the Global Citizen Festival pledging an additional US$150 million towards polio eradication.
Rotary is committed to raising $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation. This expanded agreement will translate into up to a total of $450 million to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
“Eradicating polio requires the dedication and generosity of nations and individuals around the world, and Rotarians are again leading the way,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “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.”
“As the first organization to envision a polio-free world, Rotary is more committed than ever to delivering on our promise that one day, no child will ever again be paralyzed by polio,” said Rotary President Jennifer Jones. “Our partnership with the Gates Foundation helps us eliminate any impediment to conquer polio now.”
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 immunization 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.
Polio—a paralyzing and sometimes deadly disease—is on the verge of becoming the second human disease in history to be eradicated. This critical funding helps ensure that children in at-risk countries are protected from polio, and that the wild poliovirus is eliminated in the last two countries that continue to report cases.
While only Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to report cases of wild poliovirus, the remaining challenges to global eradication—like difficulty reaching children amid insecurity and conflict and weak health systems—have proven to be the most difficult. To meet these challenges head-on and ensure the continuation of program efforts, funding and support from donors and world governments are imperative.
Rotary has contributed more than $2.6 billion to fight polio, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary joined in partnership with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to form the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance later joined. When the initiative launched, there were 350,000 cases of polio every year. Today the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent.