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World Health Summit: Gates Foundation commits extra €1.23 billion to eradicate polio worldwide

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will commit €1.23 billion to the effort to end polio worldwide.

The money will also be used to stop outbreaks of new variants of the virus which may evade existing vaccinations. The announcement was made at the World Health Summit, being held in Berlin.

Pakistan has reported 20 polio cases so far this year, all in the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Afghanistan, which has registered two cases this year, previously lacked access to vaccines because of violence and the Taliban banning polio teams in areas under its control.

However last year, a few months after they took over Afghanistan, the Taliban agreed to allow UN health workers to begin a national campaign.

Despite the billions of euros that have gone into the effort to eradicate polio since 1988, the WHO has missed repeated deadlines to wipe out the disease and has come under sustained criticism for failing to adapt to challenges.

The head of the organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was keen to stress that health should be considered a key investment in achieving wider development.

“So what does it mean to take global health to the next level? A new global agreement, a new global architecture, and a new global approach,” he said. 

“Health is not a cost. It’s an investment. It’s not simply an outcome of development, but the means. Health is a fundamental human right. It’s not a luxury,” he added.

This year’s summit comes in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic which health experts say has taught the world a clear lesson: that there is an urgent need to have a global health approach to prevent inequalities between rich and poor nations.

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