Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have agreed to extend a fundraising partnership that could generate up to $525 million in new funding for polio eradication as the global campaign to end the disease enters its final phase.
Under the agreement, which was announced during Rotary's annual meeting in Lisbon, the foundation will match every new dollar on a two-to-one basis up to $35 million a year through 2018 that Rotary commits to polio eradication. To help launch the campaign, Nigerian Rotarian and philanthropist Sir Emeka Offor committed $1 million to the effort during the meeting. All funds raised through the campaign will support immunization activities in polio-affected countries as part of a comprehensive six-year plan, announced in April during the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, to eradicate both wild poliovirus and vaccine-derived virus. At the summit, global leaders and philanthropists pledged $4 billion to the effort and called on other donors to commit the remaining $1.5 billion the plan is expected to cost.
Rotary International and the Gates Foundation have partnered on polio eradication since 2007, when the foundation awarded a $100 million challenge grant to the organization — a grant it subsequently increased to $355 million in 2009. Rotary agreed to raise $200 million in matching funds in June 2012, and when it reached that goal at the end of 2012, the foundation awarded an additional $50 million in support of the effort. To date, Rotary clubs worldwide have contributed $1.2 billion for polio eradication efforts.
"We're at a critical point in the fight to end polio," said Rotary past vice president John Germ, who is heading the organization's polio eradication fundraising efforts. "We must capitalize on this progress to finish the job. We have a robust plan, the tools to reach each child, and with funding in place, we can win against this devastating disease. Rotary and its partners remain committed to a polio-free world."