|Press Release WHA/99/15/
24 May 1999
|SPECIAL FUND FOR POLIO ERADICATION
Geneva -- The resolution on accelerating polio eradication addressed the financial shortfall problem by requesting the WHO Director-General to establish "an emergency fund to meet the needs of countries affected by conflict, countries classified as major wild poliovirus reservoirs, and other countries in particularly difficult circumstances".
With the target date for polio eradication now on the horizon, delegates at the World Health Assembly (WHA) were resolute in their commitment to rid the world of polio on time. All speakers agreed that civil strife and funding shortfalls now represent the two major obstacles to polio eradication.
"The first and last steps of this initiative are the hardest. We cannot allow financial constraints or conflicts to set us back during the all-important final stage", says Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General. Forty-six speakers took the floor to endorse the WHA resolution to accelerate the eradication initiative.
Still the single biggest reservoir of the disease, India shared its fast-track approach to meet the year 2000 target with an ambitious plan of National Immunization Days. All 130 million children will be vaccinated four times between October 1999 and January 2000. Two extra rounds in the spring of 2000 will cover the highest risk areas.
Argentina, Brazil and Cuba, veterans of polio campaigns in the western hemisphere, volunteered to help the remaining polio-endemic countries of Asia and Africa.
Countries which share borders which conflict-affected areas, such as Namibia, welcomed WHO's effort to negotiate through the United Nations offices truces in Afghanistan, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The resolution urges WHO Member States to "support the peace-building process by facilitating ceasefires for national immunization days in countries affected by conflict".
Delegates also heard how polio eradication efforts at country level are a unique opportunity to "reach the unreached". Through polio eradication activities, access has been established to children who have never been reached by any other health intervention in areas such as Somalia and southern Sudan.
The polio eradication initiative provides a platform for routine immunization, vitamin A supplementation and delivery of other preventive services, particularly in countries with health services destroyed by military conflict and civil strife.
Countries unanimously endorsed WHO's proposal to begin the task of identifying and ensuring the safe handling of all laboratory stocks of poliovirus -- now the only remaining sources of poliovirus in polio-free areas.
The European Commission said it would spearhead laboratory containment and certification activities in its member states. It would also help strengthen polio immunization and other basic health services in Africa.
Polio-free donor countries -- among them Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Japan and USA -- reconfirmed their commitment to provide financial support. Rotary International, which will have collected and disbursed US$500 million by the end of the eradication effort, pledged its continued support.
In a separate session on WHO's budget, Member States then voted to allocate additional funds to this WHO priority project.
Once polio has been eradicated, the international community will save US $1.5 billion annually.
For further information, journalists can contact Mr Valery Abramov, Office of Press and Public Relations, WHO, Geneva. Telephone (+41 22) 791 25 43; Fax (+41 22 ) 791 48 58. E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features as well as other informationon this subject can be obtained on the Internet on the WHO home page http://www.who.int/