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UK funds for polio eradication will help ensure success

Statement by Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization

6 July 2005

The United Kingdom's (UK) pledge of £60 million over three years to the global effort to eradicate polio could not come at a better moment. This commitment, which includes an immediate disbursement of £20 million, will allow countries to carry out planned polio campaigns through the end of 2005, which will be critical in meeting the global goal of eradicating polio.

Polio-affected countries are taking extraordinary steps to stop polio transmission once and for all. This new funding pledge is a vote of confidence in their ability to succeed.

Flexible, multi-year funding commitments, as pledged by the UK, are now more crucial than ever, as outbreaks in previously polio-free countries severely strain the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's budget. I join UK International Development Secretary Hilary Benn in a call to others to follow the UK's lead in providing the funding needed through to 2008. Additional funding will ensure that polio transmission can be stopped once and for all, and that the world is certified polio-free.

Since the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the number of annual polio cases has been reduced by more than 99%, from 350 000 to 1 265 in 2004. Yet the fragility of this progress is underscored by recent polio outbreaks in Angola, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Yemen. Each time there is an unexpected outbreak, more funds are needed to respond with vaccination campaigns and other measures.

The success of countries' efforts to protect their gains in polio eradication hinges on the timely availability of funding. Advance pledges for 2006-2008 are needed to cover costs of additional immunization and polio surveillance activities, to eradicate polio and certify eradication. Most urgently, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative needs an additional US$ 75 million by November of this year for activities in the first quarter of 2006, primarily in Africa and Asia.

The World Health Organization is committed to working with partners until polio no longer threatens a single child.

For more information contact:

Ms Christine McNab
Communications Officer
Director-General’s Office - WHO
Telephone: +41 22 791 4688
Mobile phone: +41 79 254 6815