To an audience of nearly 40,000 Rotary members attending the Rotary Convention in Atlanta, Bill Gates and Rotary International President John Germ, renewed Rotary’s longstanding support for ending polio in a keynote speech.
The paralysing, life-altering scourge is on the verge of becoming the second human disease ever to be eradicated.
Rotary committed to raise $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation.
This expanded agreement will translate into $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunisation and surveillance over the next three years.
This critical funding helps ensure countries around the world remain polio-free and that polio is ended in the remaining three endemic countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“In 2016, fewer children were paralysed by polio than ever before, thanks to the dedication of Rotary members and our partners,” said Germ. “The paralysis of even one child by a preventable disease is unacceptable, and I’m proud to see our members redoubling their commitment to ensure we reach every single child with the polio vaccine.”
In a partnership spanning a decade, Rotary and the Gates Foundation, along with the other Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, have led the effort to end polio worldwide.
This funding extension reaffirms a commitment established at the 2013 Rotary Convention in Lisbon, when the Gates Foundation pledged to match Rotary contributions two-to-one, up to $35 million per year until 2018.
Rotary, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, has donated more than $1.6 billion to polio eradication.
“The vision of eradicating polio began with Rotary, and its support of that effort has been unwavering for more than 35 years.”
“The vision of eradicating polio began with Rotary, and its support of that effort has been unwavering for more than 35 years,” said Gates. “Rotary’s commitment to raise $150 million over the next three years to end polio forever is a testament to the compassion, generosity, and kindness of more than a million Rotarians around the world.”
The announcement comes on the heels of the news that world governments and other donors have pledged to contribute a total of US$1.2 billion to the GPEI for polio eradication efforts.
The government funding – also announced at the Rotary Convention – will substantially help to close the US$1.5 billion funding gap, allowing partners to immunise 450 million children every year and support rigorous disease surveillance in both endemic and at-risk polio-free countries.
Other guest speakers at the Convention included golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, WWE star John Cena and actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher, who discussed human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
Thousands of Rotarians also joined in an innovative virtual reality experience, which brought Rotary’s polio story to life.
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