‘Ending polio is the next great goal for global health’

A child receives oral polio vaccination in Kano, Nigeria. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has signed a memorandum of understanding with Al Ansari Exchange to support efforts to eradicate polio and neglected tropical diseases. Photo by: Gates Foundation / CC BY-NC-ND

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has ventured into another partnership to tackle polio — a disease Bill Gates said he is exerting more time and effort on than any other cause — and neglected tropical diseases.

The foundation and Al Ansari Exchange, a major foreign exchange and remittance company in the UAE, have committed $10 million over the next five years to tackle these two health challenges.

Part of the money will be used for the prevention and treatment of neglected tropical diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. About 400 million people in the region are at risk of contracting such ailments, according to END Fund, a philanthropic organization whose goal is to reduce incidences of the seven most common NTDs in the region. Money for this cause will be administered through the initiative.

The committed funding will also be used for polio eradication efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, two of the three remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. The money will initially be used to improve the quality of polio vaccination campaigns, according to a press release.

Funding will be administered through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the same platform the foundation aims to support in a separate partnership with the Islamic Development Bank.

The partnership agreement was signed Oct. 9 in Abu Dhabi, where Bill Gates underlined his foundation’s top priority: to end polio. “Ending polio is the next great goal for global health,” he said in a speech at the 2012 Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

“We can see the finish line. But the last few years have given us a humbling lesson in how difficult it is to end a disease,” he said. “The more we drive down the numbers, the harder we have to work.”

During the event, Gates also identified two emerging factors that make philanthropy more effective: strategic giving and investing in innovations for the poor.

The point in giving, he said, is “not for the giver to have a good feeling, but for the people we’re trying to help to have a good feeling.” And investing in innovations that benefit the poor is “the great power of philanthropy.”

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.