Inspired by India's success in eradicating polio, New York Mayor and business magnate Michael Bloomberg today pledged to donate USD 100 million to fund the global campaign against the debilitating disease in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"It's unthinkable that polio still exists in the world when we have the tools and technology to protect children from this preventable, debilitating disease," Bloomberg said whileannouncing his contribution to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others.
"Now, we are teaming up to tackle one of the most ambitious public-health goals ever set: eradicating polio," Bloomberg and Gates said in a joint statement.
Polio is a vaccine-preventable disease that has been wiped out from most countries except Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
In 2011, India, considered the most difficult place to achieve eradication, was declared polio-free.
In 1988, the year the world adopted eradication as a goal, polio was circulating in more than 125 countries, and more than 350,000 children were paralysed annually, the statement said.
Since then, thanks to a massive world-wide effort, the number of cases is down by more than 99 per cent, it said.
Last year witnessed the steepest drop in new cases in a decade. In 2012, there were fewer than 225 cases and the spread of the virus has to be stopped in only three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. That is the fewest cases in the fewest countries ever, the statement said.
However, it says, the last 1 per cent is the most difficult of all. In Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, vaccinators travel long distances across difficult terrain, and some parents won't allow their children to be vaccinated.
Security is also a concern, as health workers in Pakistan and Nigeria have recently been attacked by militant groups.
Together, the Gates Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies are supporting the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's new six-year strategic plan for eradication.
The plan is based on data collected and lessons learned most recently during India's success against polio.
The plan also includes innovative tactics and cutting-edge tools, like geographic information-system maps that combine cartography and database technology to help locate children who have not been reached by vaccinators.