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World Leaders Vow To Eradicate Polio

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World Leaders Vow To Eradicate Polio

LEADERS of four Commonwealth nations — Australia, Canada, Britain, Nigeria and Pakistan — have added their weight in the push to eradicate polio, pledging

LEADERS of four Commonwealth nations — Australia, Canada, Britain, Nigeria and Pakistan — have added their weight in the push to eradicate polio, pledging millions of dollars in new funds to bring an end to the crippling and potentially fatal disease.

While Australia pledged new funding of Aus$50 million over the next four years towards the eradication of the disease, philanthropist, Bill Gates, pledged new funding of $40 million.

President Goodluck Jonathan addressed the media early yesterday along with the Prime Ministers of Australia (Julia Gillard), Britain (David Cameron), Canada (Stephen Harper) and Pakistan (Yousuf Raza Gilani).

He announced the inauguration, next month, of a Presidential Task Force on polio eradication and the upping of funding for the disease from $17 million to $30 million annually from next year. Jonathan also pledged that Nigeria would eradicate the disease by next year.

The event was held as part of the ongoing Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Polio remains endemic in four countries, three of which — Nigeria, India and Pakistan — are members of the Commonwealth.

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, host the CHOGM in Perth, said her country would spend Aus$50 million (US$53.5 million) over four years towards the global fight.

According to her, “while polio remains anywhere in the world, it is a threat to anyone everywhere. We’re here today to demonstrate our commitment to ending the fight against polio; that is ending polio for all time.”

President Jonathan stated that, “we have reported cases of polio but government has worked so hard that out of the 36 States of the Federation, polio is now limited to only seven states.”

“As at 2010, we reduced it up to 95 percent with only 11 cases recorded. But somehow, last year, we recorded about 37 cases and we are just worried.

“And I insisted that I must set up a Task Force and I’m going to inaugurate it in November, headed by my Minister of State for Health, who would work with the governors and traditional religious leaders and I promise the world that in the next two years, surely we would eradicate polio.”

Jonathan said that Nigeria would scale up its funding on polio from $17 million to $30 million annually in the next two years to ensure that, “with the global assistance we get, we would be able to eradicate polio.”

“We have no choice because polio is quit debilitating,” he said. “It separates the victim from the rest of the society and has made the families miserable.

“As a leader, we don’t want to see that among the children, especially knowing fully well that it is a disease that we can completely eradicate and prevent.”

The president thanked the leaders and international organizations at the ceremony, “for showing interest” in the eradication of polio.

“We will work with you to end this debilitating disease, which has become a problem to the developing nations,” he said.

Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said his country would commit further funds for polio surveillance and immunisations without giving a figure, while philanthropist Bill Gates pledged $40 million in new funding.

“We’re at a crossroads,” Gates, co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said via a video message, adding that recent cases in China highlighted the risk of polio spreading back across the globe.

Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, whose government in January pledged £40 million ($64.5 million) to fight the disease, said the world was in sight of eradicating the disease.

Cameron noted that, “today, for the vast majority of countries, polio has been eliminated and the harrowing images of children in iron lungs banished to the past.”

“But for all this progress, we haven’t quite finished the job and the truth is that nearly eradicated is just not good enough.

“Because polio, which remains endemic in India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, is highly contagious, a single infected person can spread the disease to hundreds of people before it is detected.

“So, if we fail to get rid of polio, we run the risk of seeing it spread back to countries from which it has been eradicated.”

Pakistan Prime Minister, Gilani said he was concerned that polio had re-emerged in his country, which shares a long, rugged and porous border with Afghanistan.

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