By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, United States of America, 28 September 2012 - Yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the most important meeting on polio eradication of the past 20 years.
|27 September 2012: UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake addresses a high-level meeting on polio, United Nations headquarters, New York. Watch in RealPlayer|
Heads of state from the three countries in which polio remains endemic – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – spoke at the event, along with representatives of such major donors as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International.
World leaders commit support
Polio can be prevented through immunization. Infections of polio have been reduced by 99 per cent since 1988. India scored a major victory recently when it celebrated one year without an infection.
Today’s high-level United Nations meeting, Our Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio-Free World, added extra impetus to finish the battle.
At the meeting, world leaders recommitted to eradicating the final vestiges of the disease.
|© Insider Images/2012/Ramson|
|President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan speaks at high-level event Our Commitment to the Next Generation: The Legacy of a Polio-Free World, United Nations New York headquarters. “Afghanistan will strive hard, and surely we will win sooner rather than later," he said.|
“This extraordinary gathering shows our collective will to eradicate polio,” said Mr. Ban, who emphasized that the issue was a top priority. “This is a matter of health and justice.”
“The meeting today is of immense significance,” said President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai. “Afghanistan will strive hard, and surely we will win sooner rather than later.”
President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan and President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari said the issue had their total focus.
Funding for the eradication of polio
The event’s moderator, President of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund Timothy E. Wirth, said, “The possibilities of ending polio are becoming more real every day,” adding that the global effort requires $5.5 billion to finish the job.
Islamic Development Bank President Dr. Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani announced a three-year $227 million financing package to Pakistan, and a $3 million grant to Afghanistan.
|A child receives an oral polio vaccine during a routine immunization session at the health centre in the town of Nyunzu in Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Infections of polio have been reduced by 99 per cent since 1988.|
“The challenges are imposing. We need donors to step up in a time when times are tight,” said Bill Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the leading donors to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government would contribute $50 million over the next four years. “So long as polio exists anywhere, our humanity is diminished,” she said.
Since 1985, Rotary International has been at the forefront of the fight to end polio. Chair of the Rotary Foundation Trustees Wilfrid J. Wilkinson announced a further grant of $75 million over the next three years.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake stressed that the fight to eliminate polio must reach the most vulnerable.
“We must not fail to seize this opportunity. We will seize it, because we make history every time we make a future for a child,” he said.
UNICEF priorities during the UN General Assembly