Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. Polio mainly affects children under five years of age. There is no cure for polio, so action to prevent polio through improved water and sanitation and vaccination is essential. The polio vaccine, given multiple times, can protect a child for life.
Results believes in the importance of eradicating polio - without a cure, ending the spread of the disease is the best way to prevent its effects on children and wider communities. For almost a decade, we have joined sector-wide campaigns to ensure Australia's continued support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).
The GPEI is a public–private partnership which links 200 national governments with key stakeholders (including WHO, UNICEF, CDC and Rotary) who drive the work of the GPEI. This initiative has seen nearly three billion children immunised, and has spared ten million children from paralysis and deformity. Since GPEI's inception, polio cases globally have decreased by over 99% since 1988 and it is now endemic in only Afghanistan and Pakistan. GPEI works in 28 countries which have recently had wild or vaccine-derived polio or are at risk of having new polio cases. In our region, GPEI works with Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar.
Our polio campaigns have focussed on leveraging Government support for GPEI. Over the years, we have successfully leveraged over $100 million in Government funding for polio eradication and the provision of routine immunisations.
Our campaign for GPEI in 2019
In 2019, GPEI sought a total of US$4.2b for its work over the following five years, during which time it hopes to eradicate polio entirely. These investments were earmarked to prevent new cases of polio in the two remaining countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) where the disease still exists, and to prevent re-emergence of polio in countries where it has been eliminated. Eradicating polio will free up resources to address other diseases, and the eradication campaign has demonstrated improvements to health delivery which will have benefits elsewhere in health systems.
In the lead-up to the polio pledging event in Abu Dhabi, Results undertook a number of activities in support of a generous Australian investment in GPEI:
We hosted a World Polio Day event at Parliament House, together with partners from Global Citizen, Polio Australia, Rotary, UNICEF, and Australian parliamentary One Last Push champions for polio eradication.
Results brought a speaker from PNG (who had worked on a polio outbreak there in 2018).
Minister Hunt spoke, event supported Australia being represented in Abu Dhabi and announcing a further financial contribution to GPEI.
GPEI had sought $25 million from Australia, and the Government contributed $15 million. In light of increased health need as a result of COVID-19, Results is currently calling on Australia to increase its support for polio eradication via an additional investment in GPEI.