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SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, Jnan Dash, Kevin Jackson, Peter Silva

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Lawrence Ellison Foundation Joins Global Effort to End Polio with $100 Million Donation

Money to support final push for polio eradication

GENEVA, Feb. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Buoyed by progress made in two of three countries where polio has never been stopped and India's recent success marking three years polio-free, the Lawrence Ellison Foundation announced a planned gift of US$100 million over five years to support global polio eradication. Roughly $20 million of that contribution was delivered in 2013. The donation will help fund the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's (GPEI) $5.5 billion six-year plan to eradicate polio.

The Lawrence Ellison Foundation brings the number of major philanthropies to 10 that have pledged a total of $535 million, in addition to the $1.8 billion commitment announced by Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, during 2013-2018 to support the GPEI strategy.  At the Global Vaccine Summit held in Abu Dhabi last April, more than 35 government and private donors, including the Gates Foundation, pledged $4 billion to support the strategy, recognizing the unique opportunity to end the disease forever. 

"The global polio eradication effort has done a tremendous job of getting us to the last mile.  We knew this last push would be the hardest and the lack of resources can't be what stands in the way of delivering on the promise of a world without polio. Larry Ellison's generous donation will help to ensure that all children are protected from this and other vaccine-preventable diseases," said Gates. 

Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to paralysis or death. There are only three polio endemic countries in the world, down from 125 in 1988, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.  Another five countries that previously had been polio-free were re-infected in 2013.

In 2013, following a year with the lowest-ever number of new wild poliovirus cases worldwide, the global effort faced challenges posed by an inability to vaccinate children and insecurity in Northwest Pakistan and Northern Nigeria, and outbreaks in conflict zones in the Horn of Africa and Syria.  Despite those challenges, the polio program continued to make progress toward the ultimate goal of eradication by 2018. 

The number of new polio cases in Afghanistan and Nigeria were reduced by 65 and 57 percent respectively, compared to 2012.  This January, India celebrated one of the most impressive accomplishments in global health. After three years during which no new wild poliovirus cases were reported, India is now considered to be polio-free. Once considered the hardest place to eradicate polio, India's success offers valuable lessons that are being applied in the remaining polio endemic countries and the confidence that eradication is possible.

India's achievement helped reinvigorate an almost 25-year global plan to rid the world of polio and galvanized the global health community to commit to achieving a polio-free world by 2018.  However, outbreaks in Syria and the Horn of Africa are stark reminders that as long as polio exists in the last reservoirs in Northern Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, polio is still a global threat.

Editor Notes:

About GPEI
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), launched in 1988, is spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Since its launch, the incidence of polio has been reduced by more than 99 percent. In 1988, more than 350,000 children were paralyzed each year in more than 125 endemic countries. In 2013, less than 400 new cases have been reported, and only three countries remain endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. For more information, please visit www.polioeradication.org.

GPEI's Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018 is spearheaded by WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and the US Centers for Disease Control in broad consultation with countries, donors, vaccine manufacturers, regulatory agencies and national and international advisory bodies. The Plan was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2013.

SOURCE Global Polio Eradication Initiative

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