Ottawa, January 17, 2005

Archived - Government of Canada Announces Increased Funding to Support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

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Minister of Finance Ralph Goodale and Minister of International Cooperation Aileen Carroll today announced $42 million in funding to support the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a project aimed at eliminating polio by the end of this year.

"We need to finish the job on polio eradication, a disease that hits Africa harder than any continent," said Minister Goodale in a statement issued on his behalf at today's meeting of the Commission for Africa in Cape Town, South Africa. "Canada is stepping in to fund the immediate shortfall faced by the GPEI, providing $42 million to help finally eradicate this crippling disease."

"Canada is recognized as a leader in the global effort to eradicate polio, and our contributions are achieving results," said Minister Carroll. "Ending this terrible, preventable disease is within our grasp. This funding will make a vital contribution to reaching this goal."

Launched in 1988, the GPEI is the largest public health initiative in history, a partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Initiative is headed by a Canadian, Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization. Since 1988 Canada has been among the top five donors to the GPEI, providing a total of $110 million.

As a result of increased international immunization, reported polio cases dropped from over 350,000 estimated cases to less than 800 in 2003, 86 per cent of them occurring in Africa. The GPEI's goal is the worldwide eradication of polio by the end of 2005, through efforts such as a campaign to immunize 80 million children across sub-Saharan Africa.

Canada announced the polio funding during the Commission for Africa meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. Minister Goodale is a member of the Commission for Africa and serves on its working group on the African economy.

For further information:

David Gamble
Public Affairs and Operations Division
Department of Finance Canada
(613) 996-8080
Pat Breton
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Finance
(613) 996-7861
Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development
Telephone: (819)953-6534
Web site:
Andrew Graham
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International
(819) 953-6238

If you would like to receive automatic e-mail notification of all news releases, please visit the Department of Finance Canada Web site at


The Global Polio Eradication Initiative

Launched in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is led by Canadian Dr. Bruce Aylward and has become the largest public health initiative in history. A global partnership spearheaded by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Rotary International and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Initiative supports national efforts to eradicate polio. The partnership includes private foundations, development banks, donor governments, non-governmental organizations and corporate partners.

What Is Polio?

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious disease caused by a virus. Polio mainly affects children under 5 years of age. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5 to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized.

Although there is no cure, polio can be prevented through a series of oral vaccinations. When the Initiative was first launched in 1988, polio held sway in more than 125 countries with over 350,000 estimated cases paralyzing 1,000 children every day.

By 1990 over 80 per cent were being immunized and about 20,000 cases were reported; by 2003 less than 800 cases were reported in only six countries.

Eradicating Polio Once and for All

Great strides have been made in the fight against polio, but there are still six countries where the polio battle has not been won. Africa has 86 per cent of all the world's polio cases, and many countries are still at risk of polio transmission and re-occurrence due to low immunization coverage. The fragility of the situation is demonstrated by recent outbreaks in Nigeria, where immunization efforts were stalled for almost a year and cases nearly tripled to 726 in 2004, accounting for over 80 per cent of cases worldwide. Increased transmission has also been observed in conflict-affected areas such as Sudan and Central Africa.

The Initiative is aiming for the worldwide eradication of polio by the end of 2005, including through large-scale immunization campaigns in 2004 and 2005 aimed to immunize 80 million children across sub-Saharan Africa. It will require three years after the last case of polio is documented in all the countries of Africa and Asia before polio is considered to be eradicated. The savings related to polio eradication could top US$1 billion per year, depending on countries' post-eradication immunization policies.

A funding gap of US$200 million must be filled for activities to go ahead in 2005, with US$35 million needed urgently by mid-January. If not received, gains could be lost and activities scaled back, thereby jeopardizing global health security. Eradication once and for all is possible, but action must be taken immediately.

Canada's Contribution

Canada has been and continues to be a leading supporter of the global campaign to eradicate polio. At the 2002 G8 meeting in Kananaskis, Canada committed $50 million to this effort, and completely disbursed these funds earlier than anticipated in response to the increased need generated by outbreaks resulting from weaknesses in national immunization programs in some developing countries. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) continues to support many developing countries in their efforts to strengthen immunization programs. Canada also supported the 2004 G8 Declaration on Polio, demonstrating our continued support to the commitment made in the 2002 Africa Action Plan.

Since 1988, Canada has given a total of over $110 million to the Initiative, placing us in the top five of all government donors. The funding announced today will help fill the urgent financing gap for 2005, with the hope to eradicate the disease once and for all. Our contribution will help pay for immunizations, training and other activities to reach all children and prevent the transmission of polio.

Currently, the Government of Canada also has a grant agreement with the Canadian Rotary Committee for International Development whereby CIDA is matching $3 million, on a 1:3 basis, to the $9 million pledged by Canadian Rotarians towards Global Polio Eradication Initiative activities in Africa. The funds are transferred in their entirety to the World Health Organization for expenditure. Thus far, under this agreement, CIDA has disbursed over $1.7 million, based on confirmed donations from Canadian Rotarians.

For more information on what Canada is doing to combat infectious diseases, please visit CIDA's Web site at

For more information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, please visit