Philanthropy for World Change
7 February 2005 at 12:02 pm
If you need to be reminded about how individual philanthropy can change the world then the latest donation by Bill and Melinda Gates is a mind boggling example.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF have just received grants totalling US$10 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and introduce a powerful new polio vaccine – a critical part of the strategy to end poliovirus transmission worldwide by the end of 2005.
The new vaccine, monovalent oral polio vaccine type-1 (mOPV1), will be more efficient at boosting immunity against poliovirus strain “type 1” than today’s trivalent vaccine, which works against all three polio strains.
Epidemiologists believe the new vaccine could help to bring a swift end to polio through mass immunisation campaigns across areas where virus types 2 and 3 have already been eliminated.
The Gates Foundation funds will help WHO and UNICEF together with a qualified vaccine manufacturer to develop, licence and introduce mOPV1 by May 2005. The vaccine will be used initially in Egypt, which has successfully eliminated poliovirus types 2 and 3, and could soon be made available to other areas where only type-1 poliovirus remains.
The Gates Foundation has been a strong supporter of polio eradication, previously providing US$ 75 million in funding. Polio once crippled 350 000 children a year globally!
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a 16-year, US$ 3 billion project, has reduced the number of cases by over 99% to just over a thousand children in 2004.
Polio will be the first disease to be eradicated in the 21st century and only the second disease ever wiped out by humankind, after smallpox.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.
The polio eradication coalition includes governments of countries affected by polio; private sector foundations (e.g. United Nations Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation); development banks (e.g. the World Bank); donor governments (e.g. Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America); the European Commission; humanitarian and nongovernmental organisations (e.g. the International Red Cross and Red Crescent societies) and corporate partners (e.g. Sanofi Pasteur, De Beers, Wyeth).
Volunteers in developing countries also play a key role; 20 million have participated in mass immunisation campaigns.