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Don't let Australia back away from ending Polio

Flickr: Valentina Buj

This week is World Immunization Week. It offers us the chance to celebrate the many benefits of life-saving vaccines, and to look at what else needs to be done.

We know that vaccines are one of the best returns on investment there is. Saving 2 to 3 million lives every year, it is estimated that the economic return for providing vaccines ranges between 18 to 30 percent. The introduction of the vaccine for polio over the past 25 years, for example, has meant that more than 10 million people who might otherwise have been paralyzed are instead walking.  

The world is on the brink of eliminating polio. 

From more than 350,000 cases reported in 1998 to just 359 cases in 2014, the world is at 99% full eradication of the poliovirus. Africa has not reported one new case for more than 6 months, and last year, India celebrated being polio free after having more cases than other country on the planet. Today, only three countries remain polio endemic: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Last year, the Australian government committed $100 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) to help eradicate this paralyzing disease. Spread over 5 years, this placed Australia firmly on the map of those countries leading in the efforts to make polio the second disease in human history to be fully eliminated.

As Australia makes adjustments to the aid program, it needs to maintain a strong and ongoing commitment to deliver on its $100 million commitment. By not honoring its commitment, Australia risks becoming part of the problem, not the solution. 

It jeopardises losing the opportunity to eradicate the 1 remaining percent of polio left in the world after 25 years of hard work. This is because without fully eradicating the disease from where it remains endemic, this could result in as many as 200,000 new cases of childhood paralysis, every year.

And within 10 years, the disease could once again spread across the globe.

Put simply, while it remains a threat anywhere, it’s a threat everywhere. This is why you need to write to Julie Bishop and tell her to honor the Prime Minister’s commitment to GPEI.

In the 2015-16 budget, $20M at least is what is needed for polio eradication if the Australian government is to remain on track to honour its commitment.

Join me in calling on Australia to keep its commitment to ending Polio, by sending an email to Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, in the TAKE ACTION. Your voice can make sure the world ends this terrible disease.