The Australian Government has made a tremendous new commitment to ensure every child can live a life free from the debilitating consequences of polio: paralysis, prejudice, and pain.
Australia pledged $15 million AUD to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) at the GPEI’s polio pledging conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday. Australia’s commitment to the GPEI, a public-private partnership that works to achieve a polio-free world, helps ensure the initiative can continue its life-saving work until 2023.
Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne will also become the GPEI’s first gender champion for polio eradication.
“Delighted to announce that minister Marise Payne of Australia has accepted a role as the first Gender Champion of the polio program,” tweeted Michel Zaffran, the director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization (WHO), a key partner of GPEI. “Thank you, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, for your new pledge of $10.29 million USD and Australia for walking the talk as we work to defeat this disease.”
Delighted to announce that Minister @MarisePayne of #Australia has accepted a role as the first #Gender Champion of the polio programme! Thank you @dfat for your new pledge of $10.29 million and #Australia 🇦🇺, for walking the talk as we work to defeat this disease. pic.twitter.com/6jeI9qGuvj— Michel Zaffran (@michelzaffran) November 19, 2019
Alongside Australia, partners and global health leaders together pledged $2.6 billion USD for the first phase of the GPEI’s Polio Endgame Strategy campaign — a figure set to help vaccinate 450 million children against polio each year over the next three years.
"From supporting one of the world’s largest health workforces to reaching every last child with vaccines, the GPEI is not only moving us closer to a polio-free world, it’s also building essential health infrastructure to address a range of other health needs,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said in a media release. “We are grateful for the generous pledges made today and thank governments, donors, and partners for standing with us.”
The new funding announcement comes just weeks after Australian politicians and One Last Push Parliamentary Champions gathered at Parliament House for a World Polio Day Parliamentary Reception to call on Australia to step up and help end polio for good.
Hosted by Global Citizen, UNICEF, Polio Australia, Results Australia, and Rotary, the event saw Chris Maher — senior advisor to the director-general at the WHO — ask Australia to attend the GPEI conference and make a generous new commitment.
“We would, of course, love it if you were to come in November to the pledging event and give us a nice fat check — we would be delighted,” he said. “But, most importantly, we need you to come to the event and show that you are still present, are still part of the initiative, and still behind what’s happening to finish polio.”
Once one of the world’s most feared diseases, thanks to global united efforts, polio is now 99% eradicated. The highly contagious infectious disease is now endemic in just Afghanistan and Pakistan.
However, in recent years, a weaker form of polio — known as vaccine-derived poliovirus — was reported in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Indonesia, Niger, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Vaccine-derived poliovirus is a mutated form of the live polio virus used in vaccinations, and can spread in countries as a result of an underimmunized population.
Australia has now contributed $119 million AUD to the GPEI since 2011.