The Australian Government has pledged $43.5 million to public-private partnership the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), an organisation dedicated to achieving a world where all children grow up free from the paralysis of a disease currently 99.9% eradicated.

Australia’s financial injection will last until 2026 and marks a 10% increase from its 2018 pledge.

"Australia is a longstanding partner in the fight against polio,” Pat Conroy, Australia’s minister for international development and the Pacific, said in a statement Tuesday. “This announcement brings Australia’s total funding for GPEI to over $155 million since 2011.”

The GPEI held its pledging conference Tuesday, where Australia’s donation was met by multi-million dollar contributions from the likes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg and Rotary International

Earlier this year, the GPEI called on world governments and businesses to step up and help raise US$4.8 billion, a figure the organisation says is required to successfully bring polio under control, and ensure a sustainable and permanent end to the disease. 

If fully funded, the organisation will be empowered to vaccinate 370 million children annually for the next five years.

Thus far, the 2022 pledging summit has received US$2.54 billion in donations. 

"Children deserve to live in a polio-free world, but as we have seen this year with painful clarity, until we reach every community and vaccinate every child, the threat of polio will persist," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. "UNICEF is grateful for the generosity of our donors and the pledges made today, which will help us finish the job of eradiating polio.  When we invest in immunization and health systems, we are investing in a safer, healthier future for everyone, everywhere.”

Thanks to the work of the GPEI, and with Australia’s support for more than 30 years, polio eradication has been achieved in almost every corner of the world, including the entire continent of Africa in 2020, and India in 2014. Today, the disease is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Still, nations around the world, like Papua New Guinea, remain deeply susceptible to outbreaks.

In recent years, global polio cases have dropped from 176 in 2019, to 140 in 2020 and just six in 2021. 

As of Oct. 18, 29 cases of polio have been recorded in 2022.

The polio virus — which invades an individual's nervous system and can cause paralysis or death — predominantly affects children under five years of age. While there is no cure, polio can be prevented by the polio vaccine, administered in two or four doses.

In 1988, when the GPEI was launched, polio was found in 125 countries and paralysed 1,000 children each day.


Defeat Poverty

Australia Pledges $43.5 Million to Fight Polio

By Madeleine Keck