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Continued Investment In Polio Eradication Has ‘Never Been More Critical’

“As I read the final communiqué from the G8 Summit in Lough Erne, Ireland, I was struck by the virtual silence on global health and development,” Paul Martin, former prime minister of Canada, writes in a Thomas Reuters Foundation opinion piece. “This absence is especially unfortunate given that one of the G8’s long-standing health priorities, polio eradication, is at a critical juncture,” he continues, adding, “As we enter the final chapter of this disease, the G8’s support is needed now more than ever.” Since its first commitment to eradicate polio was made in 2002 in Kananaskis, Canada, “To this day, the G8 has stood firm in its leadership on eradication, reaffirming its support at summits in France and the United States,” Martin writes, highlighting individual country contributions. Noting in 2012 “there were fewer polio cases in fewer countries than ever before,” he writes, “As the eradication effort comes to a turning point, the G8’s continued investment has never been more critical.”

“But the final stretch is undoubtedly the most difficult,” as “[i]nsecurity continues to prevent vaccinators from reaching children in the corners where polio persists,” Martin continues. He discusses the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan, and writes, “I’m impressed by the care taken in modeling the road to eradication.” However, “the plan’s success relies on full upfront funding, which will give the GPEI the certainty and flexibility to effectively respond to sudden challenges without compromising long-term priorities,” he states, noting, “In the past, partial funding has forced the GPEI to make painful choices that cut or delay vaccination campaigns, leading to outbreaks and increasing the overall cost of eradication.” He highlights a current outbreak in the Horn of Africa, stating it “demonstrates the importance of strengthening routine immunization,” and concludes, “As the G20 leaders gather in Russia this September they too must prioritize polio. Indeed its eradication requires the commitment of the entire global community” (6/28).