The fight against Polio has been boosted by a new grant from Rotary International- the largest group of committed volunteering men and women committed to serve and change the world.
Rotary has announced $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, bringing the humanitarian service organization’s contribution to $140 million since January 2016.
Nearly half of the funds Rotary announced January 2017 ($16.15 million) will support the emergency response campaigns in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and Central African Republic). Four cases of polio were detected in Nigeria in 2016, which had previously not seen a case since July 2014.
With these cases, funding is needed to support rapid response plans in Nigeria and surrounding countries to stop the outbreak.
While significant strides have been made against the paralyzing disease, with just 35 cases reported in 2016, polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas, and conflict zones. To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is needed.
In addition to supporting the response in the Lake Chad Basin region, funding has been allocated to support polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan ($7.15 million), Pakistan ($4.2 million), Somalia ($4.64 million), and South Sudan ($2.19 million). A final grant in the amount of $666,845 will support technical assistance in UNICEF’s West and Central Africa Regional Office.
Rotary has contributed more than $1.6 billion, including matching funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio immunization program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 35 confirmed in 2016, and no cases in 2017 so far.
What is Polio?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease, which mainly affects young children.
The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and can cause paralysis.
Initial symptoms of polio include fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, and pain in the limbs. In a small proportion of cases, the disease causes paralysis, which is often permanent. There is no cure for polio, it can only be prevented by immunization.
Key Facts about Polio
- Polio (poliomyelitis) mainly affects children under 5 years of age.
- 1 in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis. Among those paralysed, 5% to 10% die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.
- Polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988, from an estimated 350 000 cases then, to 74 reported cases in 2015. The reduction is the result of the global effort to eradicate the disease.
- As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.
- In most countries, the global effort has expanded capacities to tackle other infectious diseases by building effective surveillance and immunization systems
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects over 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas.
Joint news release WHO/UNICEF/GAVI Alliance/BMGF
18 April 2013 | Geneva – In advance of World Immunization Week, global experts are highlighting strategies to further advance progress on the Global Vaccine Action Plan that was endorsed by the World Health Assembly, 2012. Better supply and logistics systems are essential to reach the estimated 22 million children in developing countries who are still not protected from dangerous diseases with basic vaccines, according to a special immunization issue published today by Vaccine.
Articles in the special supplement also underline the need to improve understanding about the health benefits of immunization. World Immunization Week starts 20 April with its call to “Protect your world, get vaccinated” with a range of activities in some 180 countries to help immunize more children against preventable diseases.
“We have seen some major advances in the development and delivery of vaccines in the past few years,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General at WHO. “But many countries still face obstacles in getting life-saving vaccines to every child who needs them.”
Many countries encounter serious challenges in vaccine supply and logistics, from inability to keep vaccines at the correct temperature, to record keeping which enables community health workers to ensure the right vaccines reach the children who need them.
Inefficient health and delivery systems threaten access, availability, quality – and health outcomes. WHO, UNICEF, the GAVI Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the many other partners active in the Decade of Vaccines have drawn up new plans to strengthen immunization systems to:
- ensure that more vaccines are discovered and developed and that packaging is designed to meet the needs of developing countries – such as the MenAfriVac vaccine for Meningitis A in Africa which can be transported and stored for as long as four days without refrigeration;
- establish supply and logistics systems that support and sustain efficient and effective vaccine delivery – this can include, using ‘moving warehouses’ to distribute vaccines to remote health centres, and integrating the distribution of vaccines with other health commodities;
- Improve immunization information systems to show more accurately where the needs are – for example by using immunization registries, such as those used in Albania, Sri Lanka, and Uruguay. The registries track and follow individual children which makes it possible to trace and better understand who is not being vaccinated, and why;
- maintain a competent and motivated health workforce, through professionalizing supply chain positions improved training for staff and better management and supervision
- explore the use of mobile technology to strengthen communication and data capture across the supply chain, including stock management;
- allocate more resources to remote and marginalized groups, including specific programs to target nomadic and indigenous communities, such as the programs under way in Sudan.
There is also an urgent need to better communicate the health benefits provided by vaccines, and the dangers of not immunizing children. Immunization averts an estimated 2-3 million deaths every year, protecting children from diphtheria, measles, pertussis (better known as whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella (or German measles) and tetanus.
“In some parts of the world, complacency about immunization has led to gaps in vaccination coverage,” said Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF. “When gaps occur, outbreaks follow.”
In other places, myths are circulating that vaccines do not work, or on the nature and frequency of side effects, which lead parents and caregivers to refuse to vaccinate their children.
“We need to help parents to better understand the benefits of immunization to ensure they reach all children, no matter where they live,” said Dr Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of the GAVI Alliance. “Today vaccines protect the lives of hundreds of millions of children; but with our partners, we need to ensure that an additional quarter of a billion children are immunized by 2015,” he added.
Chris Elias, president of Global Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, agrees. “We know that vaccines work to save lives and protect children for a lifetime. Strong immunization systems protect our gains against polio and provide a platform for new vaccines and primary health care.”
Nevertheless, in recent years, there have been resurgences of diphtheria, measles and rubella in developed and developing countries alike. For example, outbreaks of measles have occurred in France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan.
World Immunization Week, with its call to “Protect your world, get vaccinated” is an opportunity to raise global awareness of the health benefits of vaccination. Governments, development partners, international organizations, manufacturers, health professionals, academia, civil society, communities and individuals come together in 180 countries to promote the goal of universal immunization coverage – and to overcome challenges to achieving it.
Different geographical regions emphasize different themes to adapt to their specific needs. In World Immunization Week 2013 the regional focus is as follows:
- Africa: Save lives, Prevent disabilities, Vaccinate!
- The Americas: Vaccination, a shared responsibility.
- Eastern Mediterranean: Stop measles now!
- Europe: Protect. Prevent. Immunize.
- South-East Asia: Intensification of routine immunization.
- Western Pacific: Finish the job – No more measles for anyone.
WHO, UNICEF, the GAVI Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are all committed to giving all children a healthy start to life by achieving the Decade of Vaccines vision via the Global Vaccines Action Plan launched in 2012. The Plan aims to deliver universal access to immunization by 2020.
WHO helps countries integrate immunization into national health policies and plans and thus increase access to existing vaccines. The Organization promotes new vaccines (such as the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine) and new initiatives such as the integrated plan to end preventable child deaths worldwide from pneumonia and diarrhoea by 2025. It works to ensure access to quality vaccines and immunization equipment, notably through the prequalification of vaccines and immunization equipment.
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
In June 2012, the Governments of Ethiopia, India and the United States with UNICEF launched a global roadmap to end preventable deaths of children under the age of five. Since then, under the banner of Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, more than 170 countries have signed up and renewed their commitment to child survival.
The GAVI Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunization in developing countries. The Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. GAVI uses innovative finance mechanisms, including co-financing by recipient countries, to secure sustainable funding and adequate supply of quality vaccines. Since 2000, GAVI has financed the immunization of an additional 370 million children and prevented more than 5.5 million premature deaths.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people – especially those with the fewest resources – have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
From World Health Organisation