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Ireland to provide €5 million in fight to eradicate Polio

Irish Aid, Funding, Press Releases, Ireland, 2013

The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D., and the Minister for Trade and Development, Joe Costello T.D, have announced new Irish support for the global effort to end polio.

Speaking at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi today, Minister Costello pledged that, through Irish Aid, the Government will provide €5 million over the next five years to eradicate the disease.

The Vaccine Summit is being co-hosted by Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon and His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayad bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. 

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative has prepared a new strategic plan to capitalise on the unprecedented opportunity to rid the world of polio. Ireland’s contribution of €5 million will help fund the Initiative to implement this plan.

The Tánaiste said:

“Many of us in Ireland can recall the fear of polio in our own country. In my lifetime polio destroyed the lives of many Irish people, and it was not until a rigorous vaccination programme was introduced in the 1950s and 1960s that we eliminated the scourge of this terrible disease.

The Irish memory of polio is fresh. It is right and just that we should now join the effort to finally eradicate polio from the rest of the world too.  I said to Bill Gates when he visited Dublin in February that Ireland would play its part in this fight, and we are now demonstrating that we will.”

In announcing Ireland’s pledge, Minister Costello said:

”Imagine a world without polio. A world in which no mother, whoever she is or wherever she lives, fears that her children might suffer from this disease. Every generation has a great moment to seize. In the fight to eradicate disease, this must be ours. We can do this, let’s just make it happen.”

After more than 20 years of hard work, the world is on the cusp of the eradication of polio. Global polio cases are at an all-time low, with the fewest cases in the fewest countries ever. There has been a leveling-off of cases in previously very difficult settings. For example, India has not recorded a single case for more than two years and both Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo regained polio-free status last year.

“Ending polio is a critical step in helping us reach mothers and children with life-saving vaccines and additional health services,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “I’m confident that with new partners and a fully funded eradication plan we can achieve a polio-free world.”

The plan will intensify activities to stop polio transmission in the three remaining countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. There will also be investment in extensive surveillance systems in many countries to detect any single case of polio. The plan also brings routine immunisation and polio eradication much closer together than has been the case in the past.     

In announcing this commitment, Ireland joins a number of other donors and funders at the summit that similarly made public pledges of support for vaccination and polio eradication. Estimates suggest that by ending polio, the world could save between 40 and 50 billion US dollars, about a tenth of the cost of eradication.

The participants at the Global Vaccine Summit represent global political and technical leaders in the field of vaccines who have come together to continue momentum in this decade of vaccines and to announce renewed commitment to have every child vaccinated and to end polio.