Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation commit $1.2 billion to eradicate polio

Photo: Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan. File Photo

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Sunday pledged $1.2 billion in aid to support efforts to end all forms of polio globally.

Polio is a highly infectious disease spread mainly through contamination by faecal matter, used to kill and paralyse thousands of children annually. While there is no known cure, three injections of the vaccine provide nearly 100% immunity.

Governments and foundations are making efforts to end polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the last two countries where the virus continues to circulate.

“The last steps to eradication are by far the toughest. But our foundation remains dedicated to a polio-free future, and we’re optimistic that we will see it soon,” said Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is run by Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) co-founder Bill Gates and his ex-wife Melinda French Gates.

Last month, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Peru are at very high risk for the reintroduction of polio, Reuters report says.

New York state is accelerating efforts to vaccinate residents after the virus was detected in wastewater samples. Cases were also detected in London and Jerusalem, according to Reuters report.

In March, a senior World Health Organization official said that the world is at a ‘dangerous moment’ in the fight against diseases like polio, after an outbreak in Malawi.

The announcement comes as polio vaccination campaign is starting in Afghanistan on Monday. According to Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), the number of polio cases in Afghanistan in 2021 was 43 in total.