News story

UK to protect up to 360 million children against polio

New British aid announced today will step up efforts to vaccinate more children in developing countries to create a polio-free world

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A nurse administers a diphtheria, tetanus and polio injection to a baby in Nyanza, Kenya.

A nurse administers a diphtheria, tetanus and polio injection to a baby in Nyanza, Kenya. Picture: Caroline Irby/DFID

British aid will help to vaccinate up to 360 million children against polio over the next 6 years, International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced today, ahead of the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Polio is a debilitating and life threatening disease that has been successfully eradicated across the globe, saving millions of lives. It now remains prevalent in just 3 countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. UK support will help provide routine immunisations against polio to some of the most vulnerable and hard to reach groups of people.

Justine Greening said:

Britain will not stand on the sidelines while easily-preventable diseases like polio are still a risk to thousands of people around the world.

Our generation has a genuine opportunity to make the devastating disease of polio a thing of the past, just as has happened with smallpox. This week’s Vaccine Summit represents a historic opportunity to give these efforts one final push.

We now call on all other donors to join us because the healthier a population, the better able it is to contribute to and benefit from economic development.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said:

We have a unique opportunity to create a polio-free world. The UK’s impressive leadership on international development and its commitment to protecting children will help achieve this ambitious goal. It will also bring us closer to the day when all children receive the vaccines they need.

Mr. Gates also announced his foundation would make a 6 year commitment to support implementation of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s (GPEI) plan to achieve a polio-free world by 2018.

Britain is a global leader in polio vaccinations and has already helped vaccinate 200 million children since 2009. However, many millions of vaccinations are still needed to prevent children from being infected.

The UK believes it is essential that polio prevention is included within wider health programmes and routine immunisation. By supporting countries’ health systems and routine immunisation across a range of preventable diseases – of which polio is one – we help improve the general health of the population.

The Global Vaccine Summit

The Vaccine Summit will be attended by the International Development Minister Alan Duncan, who will formally pledge the UK’s support of £300 million over 6 years. The summit is co-hosted by Bill Gates, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The meeting is taking place on 24- 25 April and will highlight the role routine immunisation plays in achieving global child health and development goals.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership between national governments and the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Published 25 April 2013