The drive to finally wipe out polio has received new pledges from the Australian and Nigerian governments, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The pledges were announced Oct. 29 during a press conference at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2011 in Perth. They specifically include 50 million Australian dollars ($53.4 million) to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative from Australia, an additional $40 million to the initiative for the rest of 2011 from the Gates Foundation, and $30 million in polio funding each year over the next two years from Nigeria.
“The Commonwealth is showing great strength today in uniting against this common enemy. I’m sure the action of the Commonwealth countries will encourage others to step forward with all the resources we need and the political commitments we need to finish polio eradication,” said Bill Gates, a staunch supporter of GPEI.
Polio remains present in four countries, namely India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said cross-border movements between his country and Afghanistan, as well the “Orthodox and so fanatic” people in militant strongholds who would not let doctors in these areas are causing problems to Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts.
“We are in the middle of a war, and because of this situation, even the doctors can’t reach those areas, in which even the terrain is so difficult,” Gillani said.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada’s mission has made polio eradication a key priority in Afghanistan. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and British Prime Minister David Cameron, meanwhile, stressed their governments’ strategies in Afghanistan also tackle development, including polio vaccination-related assistance.
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