In its launching of an innovative partnership with private companies to help eradicate polio globally by 2005, the World Bank has approved a $28 million no-interest loan for the purchase of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) in Nigeria, Africa’s most polio endemic country.
The World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary International, and the United Nations Foundation – which together launched the Investment Partnership for Polio yesterday – said they would move swiftly over the coming months to fund the immunization of children in polio endemic countries starting with Nigeria.
The loans will be funded through the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank designed to provide soft-loans to the poorest countries. The Investment Partnership will “buy down” a country’s IDA loan upon successful completion of a polio eradication programme, the World Bank said. So far $50 million has been set aside and this is expected to buy down approximately $120 to $140 million.
“The partnership to buy down loans to grants on the basis of good performance is an example of the innovative thinking occurring in the private sector and the World Bank about how to increase finances for the fight against global diseases,” World Bank President James Wolfensohn said of the plan’s generous terms.
While the partnership brings large amounts of new money to eradicate polio, the global initiative is still short roughly $275 million, a gap that threatens immunization campaigns and surveillance activities, according to the World Bank. Consequently, the Partnership is calling on the wider international community to meet the funding gap and support eradication. A $20 million loan for eradicating polio in Pakistan, for example, is scheduled for consideration in mid-May.
In 1988, polio was endemic in more than 125 countries compared to only seven countries in 2002. Countries still to defeat polio include India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger.