“In the 1950s, a Canadian woman, Dr. Leone Farrell, figured out how to mass produce the polio vaccine, making it possible for millions of children across North America to receive it,” Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, said at this morning’s Rotary International Convention in Atlanta.
Bibeau was there to announce that Canada is pledging $100 million (CAD) to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and took the opportunity to remind people how important women have been in the fight against polio.
Bibeau spoke passionately of female volunteers collecting pennies for the March of Dimes campaign, and of the hundreds of thousands of female community health workers working in dangerous conditions to deliver life-saving immunizations to children in the hardest-to-reach communities.
“We would not be where we are today in the fight against polio if not for the brave women working hard all around the world,” she said, “That’s why Canada is putting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls at the heart of all our international assistance efforts. Women and girls will build a better world. A polio-free world.”
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All of this led to the important moment advocates in the fight against polio have been waiting for.
This $100 million contribution to the GPEI is an important pledge in a long line of actions taken by various governments and organizations like Rotary International and UNICEF, in an effort to eradicate polio.
In 1988, the World Health Assembly established the GPEI, and Canada was one of its first major donors.The group has immunized 2.5 billion children since 2000, according to Bibeau.
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There were 350,000 cases of polio in 1988, with only 37 reported cases in 2016. The disease is 99.9% eradicated and it is assumed that contributions from countries like Canada will help put an end to polio forever.
Global Citizen met with Minister Bibeau on June 7 to hand over E-Petition 798, a petition signed by 2,810 people calling on the government of Canada to make a significant financial contribution to the GPEI. The minister has also received over 30,000 Tweets and emails about this from Global Citizens over the years.
Today, we are $100 million closer to the goal of eradicating polio forever.