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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Fights to Eradicate Polio

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UNITED NATIONS, Feb 28 2013 (IPS) - A multifaceted organisation with the goal of providing solutions for the issues facing our global community, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is prepared to tackle 2013 with a renewed focus on its four initiatives. With a budget of over four billion dollars a year, the Gates Foundation devotes its energies to the divisions of Global Policy & Advocacy, Education in the United States, Global Development and Global Health.

In partnerships with organisations and NGOs like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), the Gates Foundation has produced a set of priorities for 2013, recently made clear by Dr. Christopher Elias, President of the Global Development division.

In a briefing held at the U.N. Headquarters to discuss and examine these priorities, which include family planning and vaccine delivery, Dr. Elias also emphasized the growing need for the dissemination of polio.

“One of our most important high priority strategies and one that is a personal priority for Bill Gates, is our work together with the spear heading partners of the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI).” Elias said.

In a 2013 annual letter from Bill Gates, the co-chair shared that in the last two years, there had been less 1,000 polio cases worldwide. Dubbed “the silent transmission” for its lack of visible symptoms, children under the age of five must be vaccinated several times a year to build immunity.

“Right now there are only three countries that still have transmission of polio: Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are where the remaining cases are.” Added Elias.

And with a goal to eradicate polio, the foundation faces a few challenges along the way, mainly pertaining to insecurity and local support on the ground.

“If you look carefully at where the cases occur, it’s not like there’s a uniform distribution, they are very concentrated.” Elias said. “If you drill down, while there’s strong political leadership, when you get down to the local government area, there’s some variability in that commitment.”

By contributing financial support and technical assistance, the Gates foundation utilizes the commitment and collaboration they receive from their partners to mobilize health workers on the ground, facilitate delivery of needed tools and to help immunize as many children as possible in the fight against polio.