BY EMEKA AGINAM, in Lisbon, Portugal
With few countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan remaining polio-endemic, global effort to eradicate the disease is yielding the expected results as Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationTuesday announced an extension of their existing fundraising partnership that could generate up to US$525 million fund for polio eradication.
The new agreement announced at the ongoing Rotary humanitarian annual convention in Lisbon, Portugal, is expected to l match 2 for 1 every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to $35 million per year through 2018.
Under the new agreement, announced before an audience of more than 20,000 Rotary members from 160 countries that gathered in Lisbon for the humanitarian group’s annual convention, the Gates Foundation will match 2 for 1 every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication up to $35 million per year through 2018.
Rotary and the Gates Foundation have partnered on polio eradication since 2007, when the Gates Foundation gave Rotary a $100 million challenge grant for polio eradication, increasing it to $355 million in 2009.
To date, Rotary clubs worldwide have contributed $1.2 billion to the polio eradication effort.
Currently, only three countries including Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan remain polio-endemic
It would be recalled that at the annual event that attracted more than 20,000 Rotary members from 160 countries, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Chrome Group, Sir. Emeka Offor in his committed effort to join the crusade in polio eradication had announced additional donation of $1 million to Rotary International for eradication of Polio.
“When Rotarians combine the passion for service along with the power of a global network, you are unstoppable, and the Gates Foundation is proud to partner with you,” Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes said in a video message to convention attendees.
He added that, “We will combine the strength of Rotary’s network with our resources and together with the other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative we will not only end a disease, we will change the face of public health forever.”
For the Past Rotary Vice President John Germ, who leads the organization’s fundraising efforts for polio eradication, “We’re at a critical point in the fight to end polio.
“We must capitalize on this progress to finish the job. We have a robust plan, the tools to reach each child, and with funding in place, we can win against this devastating disease. Rotary and its partners remain committed to a polio-free world.”
Germ also announced a new contribution of $1 million from Sir Emeka Offor, a Nigerian Rotarian and philanthropist, as one of the first major gifts to be matched under the new agreement with Gates.
However, funds raised are expected to support crucial immunization activities in polio-affected countries including Nigeria where the disease is still existing.
These are part of a comprehensive six-year plan to eradicate both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived virus announced in April by the eradication initiative during the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi.
At the Summit, global leaders and individual philanthropists signaled their confidence in the endgame plan by pledging $4 billion, nearly three-quarters of the plan’s projected $5.5 billion cost.
They also called upon additional donors to commit the additional $1.5 billion needed to ensure eradication.
Since then, the government of Australia, and now Rotary, are committing funding toward the remaining $1.5 billion gap through 2018.
Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds by June 2012. When the organization achieved its fundraising goal six months ahead of schedule, the Gates Foundation granted Rotary an additional $50 million.
Rotary helped launch the eradication initiative in 1988, along with spearheading partners the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, new polio cases have plunged by more than 99 percent worldwide, from 350,000 cases annually to just 223 in 2012.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world.