The European Commission, The European Investment Bank, And The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Financing Partnership: A Tripartite Effort Towards A Polio-Free World

The European Commission, The European Investment Bank, And The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Financing Partnership: A Tripartite Effort Towards A Polio-Free World

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By Pallavi Singal

The world is closer than ever to ending polio, but outbreaks and challenges persist. The European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partner to launch a new impact investing partnership aimed at eradicating polio and ensuring that vital health innovations are more accessible to those who need them the most. 

The European Commission, The European Investment Bank, And The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Financing Partnership: A Tripartite Effort Towards A Polio-Free World

Polio, the deadly viral disease that was once the leading cause of paralysis among children worldwide, is very close to being eradicated. According to UNICEF, the number of children affected by polio has reduced by 99 percent.

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

"Thanks to medical innovations, the world eradicated one human disease – smallpox. Today we're on the verge of ending another – wild poliovirus. I am committed to ensuring that no child, anywhere in the world, faces this awful disease. I am also optimistic that we will eradicate polio once and for all and make health innovations more accessible for everyone, particularly those in the poorest countries."

The €1.1 billion socially responsible financing collaboration by The European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation addresses the health and development challenges faced by the most vulnerable populations, who often lack equitable access to healthcare services and innovations. This collaborative effort, which includes support from the World Health Organization and UNICEF, is set to provide the resources necessary to protect 370 million children annually from polio and enhance health systems to respond effectively to emerging health threats.

"Polio eradication is within reach, but the progress is fragile, and we must remain laser-focused. This new funding will help ensure that all children get vaccinated to eradicate polio while strengthening community-based health systems. No child should suffer from an easily preventable disease”, says Catherine Russell, the Executive Director of UNICEF.

Impact investing to eradicate polio once and for all

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) by the World Health Organisation has made significant progress towards eradicating wild poliovirus types 2 and 3 (WPV2 and WPV3) and achieving polio-free regions. However, the final steps toward eradication have presented new challenges. The GPEI now calls for a collective effort and accountability to address programmatic and epidemiological challenges. According to its report, WHO states that the world needs urgent action and collaboration among all stakeholders.

The partnership between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundationaims to accelerate progress in eradicating wild poliovirus and bolster health systems, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The initiative will provide €500 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, specifically to the World Health Organization and UNICEF. These funds will support polio vaccinations for nearly 370 million children annually, deliver essential health services alongside polio campaigns, including measles vaccines and other routine immunizations, and enhance health systems to better prepare for and respond to emerging health threats.

Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank says:

"Today we are united to write the final chapter in the history of polio. The European Investment Bank is playing its part in a unique partnership with philanthropy and health partners, by providing EUR 500 million for investment in support of the Global Polio Eradication Programme. This initiative will be a milestone in scaling up immunization and strengthening healthcare, ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, can be protected against polio."

A substantial portion of the funding, approximately €500 million, will be directed towards expanding the innovation capacity of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. This includes support for initiatives to make health innovations like mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics more accessible to people in these regions, aligning with Europe's investment plan for the world, Global Gateway.

An impact investing collaboration to eradicate poliovirus from the face of Earth

The European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation collaboration marks a substantial increase in funding for global health and human development within the framework of the European Commission's European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+). It is expected to be further bolstered by complementary funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, thereby maximizing the impact of every Euro committed by the EU and the European Investment Bank.

"These new funds will not only help to drive us towards a polio-free world but will also help to build more sustainable and resilient health systems to protect the same children and communities who are at risk of polio against the many other health threats they face”, says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO.

Over 3,000 scientists and health experts from 115 countries stand united in their urgency to implore the world to provide full financial support for the polio eradication strategy. The funds from this partnership between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will cover polio vaccinations for nearly 370 million children annually; deliver vital health services to children alongside polio campaigns, including measles vaccines and other routine immunizations; and strengthen health systems to better prepare and respond to emerging health threats, as the polio program has done against COVID-19, Ebola, and other diseases. Today, wild poliovirus remains endemic in just two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan – and 80% of variant poliovirus cases are found in just four subnational regions.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, says:

We are about to wipe polio off the face of the Earth. The European Commission, the EIB, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are partnering to get through the final stretch. With 1 billion euros supported by our European investment strategy Global Gateway, we will invest in stronger health systems globally and local vaccine and medicines production, manufacturing, and administration, where it is most needed.”

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