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U.K., Gates Foundation Announce Extra Funding For Global Polio Eradication As WEF Wraps Up

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Friday at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, announced “extra financing for polio eradication, easing a shortfall in funding that hinders a global effort to stop the crippling virus,” Bloomberg reports.

“The U.K. will double its current contribution to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative … Cameron said,” while Gates said his foundation will contribute an additional $102 million (Gales, 1/28). In a statement, Cameron pledged to increase funding for polio up to 40 million pounds ($64 million) a year for two years, Reuters reports. “The extra funding will be given on a matching fund basis, which means that for every $5 pledged by others from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012, Britain will increase its support by $1, up to a maximum of 40 million pounds over the two years,” the news service writes (Hirschler, 1/28).

Cameron said polio could be eradicated, the BBC reports. “We have the vaccines and the tools to do it. All that’s missing is a real and sustained political will to see this effort through to the end,” he said (1/28). “Eliminating the last 1% of polio requires the kind of political leadership shown by the U.K. government and prime minister Cameron today,” Gates said, according to the Guardian. “In 20 years, polio cases have been reduced by 99% and the disease is now close to being only the second in history – after smallpox in 1979 – to be wiped out,” the Guardian adds (Elliott, 1/28). 

Ahead of the announcement from Gates and Cameron, child health advocates participated in a panel at the forum about raising healthy children, VOA News reports.

World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran focused on the effects of malnutrition and hunger. “The loss to GDP has been estimated by my program-but by others at 6 to 11 percent of GDP that a country loses if children are unhealthy and bring that into adulthood. And, we know from one economy alone that equals over $20 billion a year,” she said.  

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan discussed advances in child health worldwide, noting the drop in under-five mortality and the effectiveness of bed nets in preventing malaria deaths. VOA News writes: “She says vaccines against preventable diseases, such as measles and polio are saving millions of lives. And, she notes new vaccines are coming onto the market to protect children against diarrhea and pneumonia.” 

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, “says one of the best ways of bringing down child deaths is by investing in women. … ‘We know that woman, if you invest and gets an extra dollar or two in income, she plows it right back into her family in terms of health and nutrition and education,'” she said. 

“I think you have to show the results to keep the public involved, but the public does have to keep the feet to the flames of their officials,” said ONE Campaign founder Bono, who also spoke on the panel (Schlein, 1/28).

Also in related news, Bloomberg interviews former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the WEF. Annan discussed global food security among other issues (Lacqua, 1/27).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.