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 Press release

Statement of The Elders on Polio

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Tuesday, 18 December, 2007

The Elders commend the partnership announced last week between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rotary Foundation as part of the global effort to eradicate polio.

The challenges in global health are many, but with partnerships such as that announced last week between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rotary Foundation to eradicate polio, solutions are increasingly within our reach. Polio is a virus that in its severest forms causes paralysis and even death, primarily in children. The Rotary Foundation has made the eradication of polio its top priority since 1985, and through its partnership with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI – a joint effort by the World Health Organization and UNICEF), it has succeeded in reducing the total number of polio cases by 99 percent over the past two decades. However, the wild polio virus still persists in four countries - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan - and a major sustained effort on the part of the global community is necessary if it is to be eliminated. Eradicating this disease could be one of the world’s most significant public health accomplishments.

The Elders have made a strong commitment to improving the state of global health, and believe that these kinds of partnerships, such as the one between Rotary and the Gates Foundation, are crucial for the success of any global health program. In the process of implementing these campaigns, it is imperative that efforts are made to strengthen local health systems. Improving health systems should be pursued by assuring specialised and sustained training of local healthcare workers, and through all other efforts to build local capacity. Our efforts must be focused not only on specific diseases, but also more broadly on bolstering and building sustainable health systems. It is only by doing so that lasting public health improvements will take hold.

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