We enjoyed watching the “One World: Together at Home” TV program this weekend. A total of $127.9 million has been raised as of this writing, providing $55.1 million to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization (WHO) and $72.8 million for local and regional responders.
When I think of the World Health Organization, I think of the Polio Plus Program sponsored by Rotary International. Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for more than 30 years. The goal is to rid the world of the poliomyelitis virus.
Rotary was a founding partner of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. In 1988, the Forty-first World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. (Coincidentally, 1988 was the year I assumed the helm as the President of our local Rotary Club) This resolution marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). National governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF became foundational members of this initiative. The GPEI was subsequently joined by additional vital partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi, and the Vaccine Alliance.
Polio cases have been reduced by 99.9 percent since its first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines. More than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries have been immunized. So far, Rotary has contributed more than $2 billion to fight polio, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation. There are 3 strains of wild poliovirus denoted as types 1, 2, and 3. Wild poliovirus type 2 was eradicated in 1999. No case of wild poliovirus type 3 has been found since the last reported case in Nigeria in November 2012. Today, polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a polio survivor, I am delighted that so many of my fellow human beings have been spared the scourge of the poliomyelitis virus.
The World Health Organization has served as a critical partner with Rotary in this ambitious project. The agency, founded in 1948, describes itself as “the directing and coordinating authority on international health within the United Nations system.” It coordinates activities and provides guidance for their 194 member states and two associate members (Puerto Rico and Tokelau).
For the two-year WHO budget cycle of 2018 and 2019, the US government pledged to contribute $893M. Member countries donate an assessed amount. For the US, this was 237M. Additional voluntary contributions are also given by member countries. For the US, voluntary contributions totaled 656M. Of the US voluntary contributions, 158M was designated for Polio eradication. These contributions from the US represent 20% of WHO’s total budget.
Additional information related to WHO and the coronavirus:
Americans at World Health Organization transmitted real-time information about coronavirus to Trump administration