The European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have announced a €1.1bn ($1.17bn) financing collaboration to tackle polio and make healthcare systems more accessible in low-income countries.

The funding partnership is expected to include €500m ($531m) for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), including World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, €500m ($531m) in investments and grants to strengthen health systems and €80m ($85m) grants for technical assistance.

Polio is a serious viral infection that mainly affects children in low-income countries. The virus attacks the nervous system, leading to paralysis and sometimes death. According to WHO, wild poliovirus cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988. However, wild poliovirus remains an endemic in Pakistan and Afghanistan, with most of the cases being found in just four subnational regions.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “With 1 billion euros supported by our European investment strategy Global Gateway, we will invest in stronger health systems globally and local vaccine and medicines production, manufacturing, and administration, where it is most needed. Global cooperation has helped us put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. Now it will help us get rid of polio once and for all.”

The GPEI was launched in 1988, as a collaborative effort between the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Last year, at the World Health Summit in Berlin, global leaders pledged $2.6bn in funding towards the GPEI’s 2022-2026 strategy to end polio. Seventeen countries and organisations pledged contributions, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledging $1.2bn.

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