On 18 June, a broad range of stakeholders formally launched the new Strategic Plan 2010-2012 for eradicating wild poliovirus.
The Ministers of Health of Nigeria, Angola and Senegal, among a number of other senior health ministry officials, existing and potential funders, vaccine manufacturers and key partner organizations attended a meeting – co-hosted by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and the new UNICEF Executive Director Tony Lake – to discuss the implementation, monitoring, economics and financing of the new plan.
The President of Chad, His Excellency Idriss Deby Itno, delayed his departure for an offi- cial international visit in order to personally express his firm commitment to eradicating polio in Chad by signing Rotary’s Kick Polio Out of Africa football, which had captured the imagination of Africa’s political leaders in the lead-up to the World Cup.
The President reaffirmed his desire to be involved in all upcoming immunization campaigns in the country.
The Strategic Plan 2010-12 comes at a time when remarkable progress has been made in areas where poliovirus was once entrenched. Ironically, insufficient financing now threatens this global effort. Against a core donor-approved US$ 2.6 billion budget through 2012, the Initiative faces a US$ 1.3 billion funding gap. Of note, the number of donors to the GPEI has dropped from 47 in 2004-05 to just 22 so far for 2010-11.
Failure to meet the financial requirements of eradication has human consequences, in terms of children paralyzed for life by a disease which is entirely vaccine-preventable, as well as the economic consequences of ongoing supplementary immunization in perpetuity in order to maintain the current number of cases. But most compelling are the ethical consequences: failing to protect future generations when the tools are available to do so.