Rotary Boosts Nigeria's Anti-Polio Efforts With $7.7m

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SAN FRANCISCO, February 19, (THEWILL) - The anti-polio efforts  of the Federal Government has been boosted with a $7.

7million grant from Rotary International.
The grant is part of the $35.
9 million released by the international humanitarian organization to three countries where the polio virus remains endemic.

Of the amount, Nigeria is granted $7.
7 million, Afghanistan got $6.
8 million while Pakistan got $926,000.
The grant, according to a statement circulated by African Press Organisation on behalf of Rotary International and obtained by THEWILL, is in support of polio immunisation activities and research to be carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which aims to end the disabling viral disease worldwide by 2018.

The funding commitment, the statement noted,  comes at a critical time as the eradication initiative focuses on stopping polio in the three countries - Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan - where the virus remains endemic.

Stopping polio in those countries is crucial in order to halt the recent spate of outbreaks in countries where the disease had previously been beaten and where mass immunisations of children via the oral polio vaccine must continue until global eradication is achieved.

The grant amounts are based on requests from eradication initiative partners UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), which work with the governments of the polio-affected countries to plan and carry out immunisation activities.

According to the statement, UNICEF will use a grant of $2.

73 million to bolster vaccination activities throughout the Horn of Africa as part of an on-going response to an outbreak that began in 2013 and has now infected more than 200 children.

The statement said the so-called 'imported' cases are linked to the strain of polio endemic to Nigeria, underscoring the need to stop the virus in the endemic countries.

'Now it is of critical importance to get as many children as possible immunised through routine immunisation, especially in areas within the Horn of Africa that are not doing so well in that regard,' Joel Lehmann, a Rotary member from Nairobi, Kenya said.

'As Rotary, we want to find effective ways to eradicate polio worldwide and at the same time, to improve child health in general,' Lehmann added.

The other countries where Rotary funds will be used to fight polio are Burkina Faso, $2.

1 million; Cameroon, $3.
4 million; Democratic Republic of Congo, $3.
9 million; Niger, $2.
3 million; Somalia, $1.
3 million; South Sudan, $2.
6 million; and Sudan, $1.
2 million.
WHO also received $934,000 to study the impact of introducing injectable, inactivated polio vaccine into the immunisation programme as part of the initiative's endgame plan, as the goal of global eradication nears.

Unrelated to this round of grants, Rotary had earlier released $500,000 last December as an emergency response to the polio outbreak in strife-torn Syria, which had not reported polio since 1999.

Through Jan.
31, there were 23 confirmed cases in Syria since October 2013, all traceable to the polio strain circulating in Pakistan.

Rotary launched its polio immunisation programme PolioPlus in 1985 and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the WHO, UNICEF, and the U.

Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the initiative was launched in 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 369 confirmed so far for 2013.

Rotary's main responsibilities within the initiative are fundraising, advocacy, and social mobilisation.

To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.
2 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio.

The statement said through 2018, every new dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.