Polio is a highly infectious disease, but it isn’t likely to be on the minds of most Canadians in 2019. Just over 30 years ago, however, it wasn’t such an afterthought.
In 1988, polio affected 350,000 people per year, and it presented a very real threat both in Canada and all around the world.
Thanks to collaborative global health efforts, polio is now set to become just the second human disease ever to be eradicated. Canada has played an important role in getting to this point — and needs to continue to do so if the world is going to be successful in its eradication.
Here are three key points that highlight how Canada’s commitment to global health has already — or is set to — pay off in the fight to end polio for good.
1. Canada Was One of the First Major Donors of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative
The World Health Assembly established the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in 1988 — and Canada was one of the first countries to sign on.
Through a public-private partnership, the GPEI is directed by national governments with five key partners: the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Thanks to global health initiatives put in place by GPEI and its partners, polio is now 99.9% eradicated and remains endemic in only Afghanistan and Pakistan. There were only 33 reported cases of wild polio in 2018.
To date, Canada has committed over CAD $750 million to GPEI, including a pledge of $100 million that was announced in 2017 after Global Citizens took more than 30,000 actions calling on the Canadian government to step up. GPEI has been able to immunize more than 2.5 billion children thanks to these contributions and many others.
2. Canada Has Helped Vaccinate 760 Million Children Around the World
Immunization programs have been key to the near elimination of the poliovirus, and these efforts are only successful thanks to initiatives like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Gavi was created in 2000 when global immunization efforts were at a standstill. Since its launch, the organization has vaccinated 760 million children and saved more than 13 million lives, and Canada has been a contributor to that success since it began making commitments in 2002.
Gavi is an international organization that aims to increase access to vital vaccines like polio around the world. It does this by working as a partnership between public and private sectors.
Canada’s overall investment accounts for more than $1 billion, including its most recent commitment of $500 million for the period of 2016 to 2020.
3. Because of Commitments From Countries Like Canada, the End of Polio Is in Sight
When the world manages to successfully eradicate polio, it will mark an important milestone in the achievement of Global Goal 3 for good health and well-being for all — but that milestone will only be met if countries like Canada continue to show leadership and commitment to immunization efforts and more.
On Nov. 19, Abu Dhabi will host the Reaching the Last Mile Forum, which will feature a Polio Pledging Moment where world leaders will have the opportunity to commit new funds to the GPEI.
These commitments will go towards funding the GPEI Endgame Strategy 2019-2023, which outlines the initiative’s plan to eradicate polio once and for all.
To ensure success over the next five years, the initiative is looking to secure US $3.27 billion through to 2023, which would reach the populations that are the hardest to reach with vaccines.