|Press Release WHO/75
7 December 1999
BILL AND MELINDA GATES AND TED TURNER DONATE US$78 MILLION TO ACCELERATE THE CAMPAIGN TO ERADICATE POLIO BY END OF 2000
Gifts will help launch the World Health Organization, Rotary International and the United Nations Children's Fund campaign to raise US$400 million to officially certify the world as polio-free.
The World Health Organization, Rotary International and the United Nations Children's Fund today announced that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will provide US $50 million along with US $28 million from R. E. (Ted) Turner's United Nations Foundation in a unique partnership to support the accelerated efforts to eradicate polio by end of the year 2000.
These grants will help vaccinate millions of children during mass immunization campaigns that are the backbone of the effort to end the dreaded disease. The Gates/Turner donations will primarily be used to strengthen the vaccine delivery infrastructure and to track the remaining pockets of the disease.
The two philanthropists encouraged the private and public sectors to match these gifts to ensure the next step of delivering the actual polio vaccine to children in developing nations is realized. Just last week, WHO, Rotary, and UNICEF called on governments to provide rapidly an extra US $50 million for the polio vaccine that will be administered during additional immunization campaigns in 2000 to meet the end of year target.
"Melinda and I are committed to a world without polio and are proud to be a part of this global effort. By working together we can make existing vaccines available to all the world's children." said Mr Gates. "The people of this world can and should do this together."
Ted Turner stated "The United Nations Foundation is delighted to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in supporting the polio eradication initiative. We will partner closely with WHO, Rotary International, UNICEF, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has established Days of Tranquillity to vaccinate children in countries in conflict. Our combined efforts will deliver a polio free world to the new millennium in which children are never again crippled by this terrible disease." The United Nations Foundation was established in 1997 to administer the philanthropic gift of Mr. R.E. (Ted) Turner to the United Nations.
"We are on track to eradicate polio," said WHO Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. "One of the biggest challenges we now face is raising the necessary funds to finish the job on time. With this kind of contribution, a polio-free world is within reach and one of the world's largest health initiatives can be brought to a successful conclusion. I would like to thank Bill and Melinda Gates as well as Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation for these gifts."
Polio is a disease that mainly affects children under three years of age and causes lifelong paralysis of the limbs. There is no cure but a few drops of vaccine will protect a child for life.
With these gifts, the remaining funds needed to finish the job total US $400 million through to 2005 the target for officially certifying the world as polio-free. Immunization and surveillance activities will need to continue at least until that date.
"We heartily applaud these generous gifts from Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner," said Rotary International President Carlo Ravizza. "As our dream of a polio-free world is on the verge of becoming a reality, this contribution serves as a shining example of how we must all pull together to reach the summit." Between 1988 when the initiative was launched and 2005, Rotary International will have donated US $500 million to the eradication initiative .
The Gates gift, combined with the UN Foundation gift and disbursed by WHO and UNICEF, will help fund the cost of polio National Immunization Days and building infrastructure for immunization and disease surveillance in some of the world's poorest countries. These include the ten high priorities for the global initiative: Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan all affected by conflict; and Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan which are poliovirus reservoirs with intense transmission.
The Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988 when the World Health Assembly resolved to eradicate polio by the end of the year 2000. In ten years, the number of cases has fallen from an estimated 350,000 to approximately 6,000 reported cases in 1998. Other key partners in the coalition are technical agencies (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); development banks (World Bank); donor governments (Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, UK and USA), and corporate partners.
For further information, journalists can contact Dr Harry Hull, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 4406. Fax (+41 22) 791 4858. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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