UK to commit £100m to eradicate polio worldwide

Bill Gates described the new commitment as ‘fantastic’

Tom Peck
Friday 04 August 2017 00:05 BST
The fund will help immunise up to 45 million children against the disease each year until 2020
The fund will help immunise up to 45 million children against the disease each year until 2020 (Getty)

The UK has committed to spending an extra £100m as part of a final push to eradicate polio.

It is hoped the move, hailed as “fantastic” by Microsoft founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates, will completely wipe out the disease.

The fund will be used to help immunise up to 45 million children against polio each year until 2020 – when it is hoped the world could be declared polio-free.

Mr Gates, who is also chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “It’s fantastic to see such a generous pledge from the UK to the global effort to eradicate polio.

“With the steadfast commitment of key partners like the UK Government and dedicated health care workers around the world, we are very close to ending polio forever.

“Thanks to the generosity of the British public, children everywhere can live healthier, more prosperous lives and thrive in a polio-free world.”

Polio was eliminated in the UK in the 1980s and there are currently more than 100,000 British survivors of the disease.

Globally, the wild poliovirus still exists in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, with eight new cases this year.

The UK’s new funding is expected to vaccinate the equivalent of 80 children every minute, saving 65,000 children from paralysis each year.

Administered through the World Health Organisation, the support should help more than 15,000 polio workers reach every last child at risk, and save healthcare systems across the globe almost £2bn in treating polio victims.

The money will come via the UK’s £12bn budget for foreign aid, through the Department for International Development (DfID).

DfID Secretary Priti Patel said: “Polio has no place in the 21st century.

“This devastating and highly infectious disease causes painful paralysis and is incurable – trapping the world’s poorest people in a cycle of grinding poverty.

“The UK has been at the forefront of fighting global health threats, including polio, and our last push towards eradication by 2020 will save 45 million children from contracting this disease.

“The world is closer than it ever has been to eradicating polio for good, but as long as just one case exists in the world, children everywhere are still at risk.

“Now it is time for others to step up, follow Britain’s lead and make polio history.”

The Government said there is still a funding shortfall of about £130m to achieve the £1.1bn global investment needed to end polio once and for all.

British paralympian and broadcaster Ade Adepitan, who contracted polio as a baby, said: “The UK has always been a world leader – it can be part of our legacy to be at the forefront of the race to eradicate polio around the world.

“Let’s keep doing what we are doing and make the world a better place for future generations.

“We are so close to eradicating polio. We need just one last push to make this disease history and change the world.”

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