The United Nations Foundation and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced today that the Kingdom will contribute $30 million to eradicate polio worldwide, making it only the second disease to be eliminated from the world. The vast majority of the world is now polio-free, but polio remains endemic in four countries—Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Today’s announcement was made by United Nations Foundation Founder and Chairman Ted Turner, UN Foundation President Timothy E. Wirth, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia HRH Prince Saud Al-Faisal, and Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations H.E. Khalid Abdalrazaq Al-Nafisee during the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), where Former President Bill Clinton commended the leaders in the fight against polio.
“50 years after Dr. Albert Sabin invented the oral polio vaccine, polio has been eliminated from more than 125 countries,” said Ted Turner. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will help us finish the job. Let’s rid the world of polio once and for all.”
In addition to the financial commitment, Saudi Arabia, the Keeper of the Two Holy Mosques, is also requiring every pilgrim entering the Kingdom for the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, to receive a polio vaccination. By raising awareness about the importance of polio immunizations among Muslim pilgrims, the Kingdom is helping to dispel misconceptions about the safety of vaccines and is underscoring that polio immunizations are not only appropriate, but essential.
Polio, which can cause lifelong paralysis, can be prevented with a vaccine that costs only $.60. In the 1980s, polio paralyzed at least 1,000 children every day all over the world. Today, after international efforts to immunize every child everywhere, five million people are walking who would otherwise be paralyzed and the world is almost polio-free.
The success is the result of an improved vaccine and intense efforts over the past several years by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a partnership that includes the UN Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and is spearheaded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rotary International, and the World Health Organization. Since the
Initiative’s inception in 1988, the number of polio cases has dropped by 99% worldwide.
“This commitment will help ensure that polio is eradicated from the world, and millions of children will forever be spared of the crippling disease and sometimes deadly effects of the disease,” said Turner.
About the UN Foundation
The UN Foundation, a public charity, was created in 1998 with entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes and activities. The UN Foundation is an advocate for the UN and a platform for connecting people, ideas, and resources to help the United Nations solve global problems. We build partnerships, grow constituencies, mobilize resources and advocate policy changes to support the UN’s work for individual and global progress. The UN Foundation’s work—focused on select global problems—is decreasing child mortality, improving disaster relief, protecting diverse cultures and environments, creating a clean energy future, empowering women and girls, and improving U.S.-UN relations. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org.