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July 9, 2014

Rotary releases US$43.6 million to fight polio in Africa, Asia and the Middle East

The fight to end polio will receive an additional US$43.6 million boost from Rotary in support of polio immunization activities, surveillance and research to be carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which aims to end the disease worldwide by 2018.

The funding commitment comes on the heels of a World Health Organization declaration calling the international spread of polio a “public health emergency of international concern.” The eradication initiative focuses on stopping polio in the three countries where the virus remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Stopping polio in those countries is crucial in order to halt the recent spate of outbreaks in countries where the disease had previously been beaten – such as strife-torn Syria -- and where mass immunizations of children via the oral polio vaccine must continue until global eradication is achieved. The WHO declaration further recommends that polio-affected countries ensure that incoming and outgoing travelers are immunized against polio.

The Rotary grants include $5.7 million for Afghanistan, $6.5 million for Nigeria and $5.6 million for Pakistan. Grant amounts are based on requests from eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organization, which work with the governments of polio-affected countries to plan and carry out immunization activities.

UNICEF will use a grant of $3.6 million to bolster activities in Iraq, previously polio-free since 2000, but now one of several countries in the Middle East affected by an outbreak of polio from virus of Pakistani origin. The so-called “imported” cases are linked to the strain of endemic poliovirus, underscoring the need to stop the virus in the endemic countries. Another grant of $146,000 will support polio surveillance activities throughout the Middle East region.

The other countries where Rotary funds will be used to fight polio are Chad, $4.2 million; Democratic Republic of Congo, $4.1 million; Ethiopia, $4.8 million, and India, $2.6 million. .In addition, grants totaling $4.7 million will support polio surveillance and technical assistance in 47 African countries. A $470,000 grant will fund surveillance throughout South East Asia, and $1.65 million will fund WHO polio vaccine research. 

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