2-09 Rotary's Polio Eradication Quest Update

Bill Gates at Rotary International Assembly

January, 2009 - Bill Gates made a personal appearance at the International Assembly and made a rousing speech with the world press in attendance. The prestigious Wall Street Journal reported it today and many of the top TV channels carried it. Here is the report that appeared in the Wall Street Journal:

$635 Million Pledged in Effort to Wipe... wsj.com by Robert Guth & Jacob Goldstein

22-01-2009 San Diego, CA = The governments of Germany and the United Kingdom and charities including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $635 million toward eradicating polio, in a major boost of funding that shows how tricky and expensive it can be to wipe out a disease.

The Gates Foundation pledged $255 million, while the governments of Germany and the U.K. will together donate a total of $280 million. Rotary International said its members will raise $100 million over the next three years toward the effort. Rotary has been a longtime advocate for eradicating polio, raising funds and deploying volunteers to help with inoculation efforts. The money will ultimately be used by the World Health Organization and Unicef, adding to funds from other countries and philanthropies. The money will be focused on the four countries where polio remains endemic: Nigeria, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. The grants add to the roughly $6 billion spent on polio eradication since 1988, when the WHO and partners launched an effort to wipe out the crippling disease.

The polio vaccine was first created in the 1950s, and the disease was quickly killed off in the U.S. and many parts of the world. Strong gains against polio continued through the 1990s, but an uptick last year in the number of reported cases has health officials and donors concerned that it could re- infect parts of the world.

That has sparked a fresh round of donations and an effort to work more closely with countries that still have polio. "The idea that this can be easily controlled now is a false premise," said Bruce Aylward, director of the WHO's polioeradication program. The eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s was one of the great achievements in global public health. In 1988, the WHO and partners launched an effort to kill off polio, setting the year 2000 as a goal.

The goal was nearly achieved, with the number of reported cases in recent years reduced to hundreds from 350,000 cases in 1988. But in 2003, leaders in Nigeria called for a stop to vaccination efforts and some residents grew skeptical of health workers and refused to have their children vaccinated. Vaccination efforts in the African country have since been restarted. Meanwhile, in parts of northern India typical vaccine regimens weren't sufficient to confer immunity. And in Pakistan and Afghanistan, inoculation efforts were hampered by terrain and conflict.

The upshot was that in 2008 the numbers of reported cases started to climb back up, driven by epidemics in parts of Africa and Asia. At the end of 2008 there were about 1,600 reported cases. "You have to get rid of this every single place on earth, all at the same time," said Scott Barrett of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. "The probability of success is never going to be 100%." Money remains a factor: Health officials said an additional $350 million is still needed in 2009 and 2010 to support the eradication efforts.

Bill Gates announces new US$255 million grant for ending polio By Arnold R. Grahl and Dan Nixon

Bill Gates announces a new US$255 million grant for ending polio at the 2009 International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded US$255 million to Rotary International in the global effort to eradicate polio, bringing the total committed by Rotary and the Gates Foundation to $555 million.

Shortly after meeting with incoming district governors from the four countries where the wild poliovirus is endemic -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- Bill Gates announced the new grant on Wednesday morning at the International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA.

"Rotarians, government leaders, and health professionals have made a phenomenal commitment to get us to a point at which polio afflicts only a small number of the world's children," Gates said. "However, complete elimination of the poliovirus is difficult and will continue to be difficult for a number of years. Rotary in particular has inspired my own personal commitment to get deeply involved in achieving eradication."

"We are going to end polio now," affirmed Robert S. Scott, chair of RI's International PolioPlus Committee. In response to the new $255 million Gates Foundation grant, Rotary will raise $100 million in matching funds. In November 2007, RI received a $100 million Gates Foundation grant, which Rotary committed to match by raising $100 million.

The two Gates Foundation challenge grants now total $355 million. Rotary International's matching effort in response is called Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge, which must be completed by 30 June 2012.

The $255 million grant is one of the largest challenge grants ever given by the Gates Foundation and the largest received by Rotary in its 104-year history. Rotary will spend the grant in direct support of immunization activities carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which is spearheaded by RI and its partners, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. Rotary will distribute the funds through grants to WHO and UNICEF.

The participation of Rotary clubs and individual Rotarians in Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge remains crucial to its success. Rotary has raised nearly $73 million toward this amount: $62 million in contributions and $11 million in commitments. Each club is being challenged to organize a public fundraiser annually for the next three years. In October, The Rotary Foundation Trustees approved special Paul Harris Fellow Recognition, which begins 1 July, featuring a certificate with the End Polio Now logo.

Polio eradication has been Rotary's top priority since 1985, with more than $1.2 billion contributed to the effort. Gates praised Rotary for providing the volunteers, advocates, and donors who have helped bring about a 99 percent decline in the number of polio cases. "The world would not be where it is without Rotary, and it won't get where it needs to go without Rotary," he said.

The final hurdle still is ahead, said RI President-elect John Kenny. This grant shows that the Gates Foundation is just as committed as Rotary to ridding the world of this disease, he said.

Gates also shared with the incoming district governors and Rotary leaders a story from his trip to India in November, when he held a nine-month-old girl afflicted with polio in his arms in a slum in East Delhi. "She obviously didn't understand why people were poking her legs and looking so serious. But she'll never be able to kick a ball around, never be able to play hide-and-seek with her friends, because she has polio," Gates said. "As I held Hashmin, I thought, We can end this."

"We don't know exactly when the last child will be affected. But we do have the vaccines to wipe it out," he said. "Countries do have the will to deploy all the tools at their disposal. If we all have the fortitude to see this effort through to the end, then we will eradicate polio."

In addition, the governments of the United Kingdom and Germany announced they have respectively committed $150 million and $130 million to eradicate polio, which will not count toward Rotary's challenge. Government support is key to polio eradication efforts, said Scott.

Gates meets with district governors from endemic countries By Arnold R. Grahl

Bill Gates met privately with incoming district governors from the four polio-endemic countries on 21 January at the 2009 International Assembly. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee Bill Gates met Wednesday morning with incoming district governors from the four countries where the wild poliovirus still exists -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- to encourage them to continue in their efforts to end polio.

The meeting, which was unexpected for the district governors-elect, occurred a short time before Gates took the stage during the fifth plenary session of the International Assembly to announce a new award of US$255 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Rotary International for polio eradication. Rotary will raise $100 million in matching funds over the next three years.

"[Gates] talked about how he had just been to India in November and how impressed he was with all that Rotarians in India and the government were doing in the effort to eradicate polio," said Deepak Purohit of District 3131 (part of Maharashtra, India). "He said our really hard work will be instrumental in approaching the remaining stumbling blocks, and that he is sure we will end polio."

Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee, updated the district governors-elect on the status of polio in the world, noting that while there is good news, there are also tough challenges ahead. He noted that through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, type 2 polio was eradicated in 1999. But an epidemic of type 1 polio in northern Nigeria has been among some of the year's bad news.

Purohit, an orthopedic surgeon, said his clinic performs corrective surgery for polio victims in six countries. He said meeting Gates has recharged his personal drive to promote Rotary's End Polio Now campaign in his year as district governor. "This is fantastic. It is the best kept secret of this assembly," he said.

Atmaram Gawande, governor-elect from District 6690 (Ohio, USA), said such a personal commitment by Gates, including his trip to India and his appearance at the assembly, increases Rotary's credibility in the eyes of the world. In his opinion, said Gawande, "This is the first time that such a major announcement has been made at an assembly."

Source: Rotary International

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