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Gates Foundation pledges USD1.2B to eradicate polio globally

BERLIN (AP) – The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it will commit USD1.2 billion to the effort to end polio worldwide.

The money will be used to help implement the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s strategy through 2026. The initiative is trying to end the polio virus in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last two endemic countries, the foundation said in a statement on Sunday.

The money also will be used to stop outbreaks of new variants of the virus. The announcement was made on Sunday at the World Health Summit in Berlin.

The foundation said in a statement on its website that it has contributed nearly USD5 billion to the polio eradication initiative. The initiative is trying to integrate polio campaigns into broader health services, while it scales up use of the novel oral polio vaccine type 2.

The group also is working to make national health systems stronger so countries are better prepared for future health threats, the statement said.

A person walks by the headquarters of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle. PHOTO: AP

“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 foundation CEO Mark Suzman.

Pakistan has reported 20 polio cases so far this year, all in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Afghanistan, which has registered two cases this year, previously lacked access to vaccines because of violence and the Taleban banning polio teams in areas under its control.

However last year, a few months after they took over Afghanistan, the Taleban agreed to allow United Nations health workers to begin a national campaign.