Apr. 27, 2022

WHO Director-General's remarks at the Investment Case for Polio Eradication

WHO Director-General's remarks at the Investment Case for Polio Eradication – 26 April 2022

27 April 2022

Dear colleagues and friends,

Thank you for joining us for the launch of the Investment Case for Polio Eradication.

In February, we received confirmation that wild poliovirus had paralyzed a child in Malawi.

The virus strain originated from Pakistan.

While it does not affect the WHO African Region’s wild polio-free certification, it shows us that as long as polio continues to circulate anywhere, it’s a threat to children everywhere. 

That’s why we cannot afford any let-up in our quest to eradicate polio, once and for all. 

In the last two countries endemic for wild poliovirus, Afghanistan and Pakistan, transmission is at historic lows.

Sadly, Pakistan has reported its first case of polio in 15 months.

Despite this, we have a unique window of opportunity right now to end polio for good.

The world is more than 99% of the way there, thanks to the tireless efforts of frontline workers, communities, local governments, and global partners, including Rotarians around the world. 

Today, nearly all the world’s people live in polio-free countries. 

Polio eradication would be a historic achievement for the world and a major milestone in human history.

To seize this opportunity, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is implementing a new five-year strategy that introduces innovative new tools and tactics to break the final bottlenecks.

To fully implement this strategy and end polio for good, the GPEI needs 4.8 billion US dollars.

This support is critical to achieving eradication, expanding essential health services in under-served communities, and leaving a legacy of healthy children around the world.

This will bring about benefits beyond just eradicating polio, as the polio programme helps to deliver other health services like routine immunization, vitamin A supplementation, and respond to emergencies like Ebola and COVID-19.

This investment will also strengthen health systems by integrating polio infrastructure within broader health programmes.

Eradication is highly cost-effective and will be associated with significant economic savings, estimated at more than 33 billion US dollars.

Every child must be protected from this disease. 

We have the tools and expertise, now we need support to finish the job.

Right now, we need bold commitments, both financial and political, to consign polio to the history books.

And of course, we can only realize the dream of a polio-free world with close partnership.

Since the formation of the GPEI almost 25 years ago, UNICEF has been a steadfast partner, supporting the supply of vaccines and building trust in communities.

Unfortunately, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Catherine Russell, cannot be with us live today, but she has sent a video message, which we will play now. 

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