• Lake Chad countries to receive $8.15m
Paul Obi in Abuja with agency reports
In a strategic move to fiercely combat Wild Polio Virus, Rotary International’s new fund of $35 million is to boost Nigeria and other countries’ polio eradication efforts around the world to fight the virus.
In a statement released by Rotary’s Head of Media, Michelle Kloempken, the organisation said Nigeria and other Lake Chad Basin countries are to receive $8.15 million out of the $35 million fund.
According to Rotary, the organisation is “committed to an additional $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, bringing the humanitarian service organisation’s contribution to $105 million in 2016.
The announcement follows recent reports of three new cases of wild poliovirus in Nigeria: two cases in July, and one in August. The three cases are the first to be detected in Nigeria since July 2014.
Kloempken explained that “with these cases, funding for polio eradication is particularly vital as rapid response plans are now in action in Nigeria and surrounding countries to stop the outbreak quickly and prevent its spread. Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are acting to immunise children in Nigeria and countries in the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and the Central African Republic).
“Nearly one-fourth of the funds Rotary announced ($8.15 million) will support the emergency response campaigns in this at-risk region, and last month Rotary provided $500,000 to immediately assist with the outbreak response.”
Rotary maintained that “while significant strides have been made against the paralysing disease, with just 26 cases reported in 2016, polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas and conflict zones.”
According to the Chair of Rotary’s International Polio-Plus Committee, Michael McGovern, “while we are disappointed with the recent news coming out of Nigeria, this situation underscores the extreme importance of widespread immunisation campaigns and strong disease surveillance in all countries of the world until polio is fully eradicated.
“This funding will help ensure that Rotary and our GPEI partners are doing all that we can to redouble our efforts and protect the progress in polio-free parts of the world, as well as stop transmission in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Nigeria,” McGovern stated.
He said “To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is urgently needed. Without full funding and political commitment, this paralysing disease could return to previously polio-free countries, putting children everywhere at risk.
“Rotary has contributed more than $1.6 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.”
He added that “Rotary launched its polio immunisation programme PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF, U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and was later joined by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 per cent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 26 confirmed to date in 2016.
“In addition to supporting the response in the Lake Chad Basin region, funding has been allocated to support polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan ($5.55 million), Pakistan ($12.36 million), India ($875,000), Somalia ($1.77 million), South Sudan ($2.04 million), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($2 million). A final grant in the amount of $2.25 million will support key WHO staff members.”
This came as officials of the Ministry Federal Capital Territory and Rotary International intensified vaccination across Abuja and its environs.
Speaking to journalists, Chairperson, Rotary’s Polio Plus Club, Nnenna Anekwe said Rotary “intends to achieve a polio free nation by intensifying vaccination across Abuja to effectively reach out to children within the age bracket for the exercise.
“We really want to combat polio in our society. We want to put an end to polio. That’s actually the basic reason for this particular exercise. We want to have a polio free nation,” she said.
Anekwe further stated that “knowing that no outbreak has actually been heard of or dictated in FCT and its environs except for the ones in the North-east areas, we want to do all we can to sustain that feat. And since they have actually come a long way in combating this disease or virus, I guess we should be able to have a broader coverage this time around with this exercise.”