Polio is a debilitating childhood disease that once blighted tens of thousands of lives worldwide. But after the introduction of effective vaccinations, wild polio is now endemic in only two countries. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) is playing a vital role in the fight to end polio and in strengthening health systems worldwide. Since GPEI was established, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunised against polio thanks to the cooperation of more than 200 countries and 20 million volunteers.
The world is so close to eradicating polio, but this can’t be taken for granted. Last year marked one year since Africa was declared wild polio-free and 30 years since the last case of polio was detected in the Americas Region. But at the same time, many polio vaccination programmes were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and GPEI staff and volunteers worldwide provided substantial support to the pandemic response.
The UK made a pledge in 2019 of £400 million to GPEI for the period 2020-2023. Less than a quarter of this has been disbursed so far, and in 2021, the Government cut funding to GPEI by 95%. This month, we’re calling on recently appointed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to commit to spending £100 million a year for the remaining period of 2020-23, to ensure the UK supports global efforts to eradicate polio, and in doing so supports efforts to strengthen health systems worldwide.
If you missed the January grassroots conference call, catch up on it here to hear from guest speaker Sona Bari, external relations coordinator for polio eradication at the World Health Organization.
Image: Mohamed, the Regional Polio Eradication Officer for Banadir, Somalia, participates in an integrated immunisation campaign held in September 2020 with strict COVID-19 safety measures in place. In addition to their polio duties, programme personnel have provided substantial support to the pandemic response. Image credit: WHO Somalia