Private philanthropy has nearly eradicated polio, but the battle is not yet over. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg discussed their plan to completely eradicate the disease and the remaining challenges to seeing a polio-free world.
“As recently as 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 paralyzed annually. Since then, thanks to a massive world-wide effort, the number of cases is down by more than 99%. In 2011, India, considered the most difficult place to achieve eradication, was declared polio-free. Last year, we 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. . . .
To capitalize on the current momentum, fast action is needed. Furthermore, eradication will save billions of dollars over the long term. When success is achieved, the world will have a workable, scalable model for global vaccination—a blueprint for success that can be used time and again to reach children throughout the developing world and prevent disease on an unprecedented scale.”
For more on the history of philanthropy’s role in fighting polio and eradicating other diseases, check out “Conquering Polio” from the Summer 2012 issue of Philanthropy.