EU leads more than 1 billion-euro commitment to eradicate polio

EU leads more than 1 billion-euro commitment to eradicate polio
A Pakistani health worker administers polio drops to a child during a polio vaccination campaign at Lady Reading government hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan, 02 October 2023. Four environmental samples collected in August from Karachi and Peshawar have tested positive for the poliovirus. Pakistan's National Polio Laboratory has confirmed the detection of Type-1 Wild Poliovirus (WPV1) in these samples, indicating a risk of transmission in these areas. Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease that primarily affects children under the age of five. Repeated vaccination is the most effective way to protect children from polio, and Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two remaining endemic countries in the world. EPA-EFE/ARSHAD ARBAB

BRUSSELS/LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - The European Union together with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Investment Bank have announced a new financing package of more than 1 billion euros ($1.06 billion) to eradicate polio, the EU and the foundation said on Wednesday.

Cases of polio have declined by 99% since the 1990s thanks chiefly to mass vaccination campaigns worldwide.

However, eradicating the disease completely has proven more challenging. The wild form of polio is now only endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the vaccine-derived strain is more widespread.

Vaccine-derived polio can occur when children are immunized with a vaccine containing a weakened version of the live virus. They are protected, but the weakened virus excreted by these immunized children can spread and mutate among an unvaccinated population, ultimately becoming harmful.

Both forms of the disease are often asymptomatic, but in rare cases can paralyse and kill children.

“Humanity has only eradicated a single disease: small pox. And that was over 50 years ago. Today, we are on the verge of ending another: wild polio virus. The virus that once paralysed 7,000 children every week, has only paralysed 9 people this year,” Bill Gates told reporters at a press conference.

“But while Polio is nearly gone, there are also another 280 children who have been struck by a different polio variant.”

The financing package is expected to reach 1.1 billion euro ($1.17 billion), as part of Europe’s Global Gateway investment strategy. UNICEF and the World Health Organisation will be the implementing partners.

By Julia Payne and Jennifer Rigby

(Reporting by Julia Payne and Jennifer Rigby; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Sharon Singleton)


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