Donors pledge $US2.6b to eradicate polio

A world initiative has received a $US2.6 billion boost for efforts to eradicate polio globally.
A world initiative has received a $US2.6 billion boost for efforts to eradicate polio globally.

Donor governments and philanthropists have pledged $US2.6 billion ($A3.8 billion) to help fund a worldwide polio eradication plan that has taken decades to reach what global health specialists say is now the "last mile".

The funding - almost of half of which came in a single donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - will be used to immunise 450 million children against polio each year, the World Health Organisation said in a statement.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that by seeking to reach "every last child" with vaccines against the crippling viral disease, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is coming ever closer to achieving a polio-free world.

The WHO last month announced a "historic step" in the fight to wipe out polio, certifying that the second of the three types of the polio virus had been eradicated globally.

Global polio cases have been cut by more than 99 per cent since 1988 but the type 1 polio virus is still endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it has infected 102 people this year. That is a resurgence from a record low global annual figure of 22 cases in 2017.

Polio invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours. It cannot be cured, but it can be prevented by vaccination, and a dramatic reduction in cases worldwide in recent decades has been due to intense national and regional immunisation campaigns for babies and children.

The $US2.6 billion pledge will part fund the initiative's 2019-2023 "endgame strategy". A total of $US3.27 billion is needed to fully implement the plan, the WHO said.

Donors made their pledges at a "Reaching the Last Mile" polio conference in Abu Dhabi. The funding includes $US1.08 billion from the Gates Foundation, around $US514 million from Britain, $US215 million from the United States, $US160 million from Pakistan and $US150 million from the charity Rotary International.

Australian Associated Press