$30 million from Japan bolsters final push for polio eradication, UNICEF says

$30 million from Japan bolsters final push for polio eradication, UNICEF says

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The Government of Japan has greatly bolstered the final effort to purge the world of polio by donating $30 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced today.

UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy applauded Japan for the donation, part of Tokyo's traditionally strong support for fighting polio and other infectious diseases. "The new donation from the Japanese Government is a welcome infusion of desperately needed funds and shows the kind of international leadership we require," she said.

The pledge brings to $40 million the total of Japan's contribution this year to UNICEF's polio eradication efforts. Last year, Tokyo donated of $35 million to the agency to support the polio eradication campaign.

With this latest increase in available funding, Ms. Bellamy expressed confidence that the 2005 target date for certifying the world polio-free was still within reach. She noted, however, that this could only happen if there was continued political and financial support of the international community. "We are calling on all donors to follow the lead of Japan and join this last mile of the race to deliver a polio-free world to our children," she said.

While the world was making remarkable progress in the polio eradication effort, Ms Bellamy said, a $400 million funding gap posed a great threat to the programme.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative - spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF - is one of the largest public health campaigns ever. Last year, a record 550 million children were immunized in 82 countries. Compared to an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988, when the campaign started, there were only 2,857 reported polio cases in 2000, according to UNICEF. The poliovirus circulates in 20 countries today, down from 125 in 1988.