Bill Gates gives, and gets, more money for polio eradication while at Davos

Bill & Melinda Gates at Davos 2010

Bill and Melinda Gates are big believers in vaccines and in the benefit of eradicating, rather than simply controlling, those human diseases that have the potential for being completely wiped out.

Today, Gates and British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a combined new donation of $166 million in support of the global polio eradication campaign.

They’re at at a Swiss ski resort in Davos meeting with the other rich and powerful folks invited to attend the World Economic Forum.

The Gates Foundation said today it was giving an additional $102 million — to specifically boost the polio eradication campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That’s on top of $50 million given earlier (matching the same amount donated by Abu Dhabi royalty). The Seattle philanthropy has donated more than $1.2 billion to the polio campaign (just behind the U.S. government, the biggest donor, at $1.4 billion).

Cameron announced the British government would double its support for the polio campaign, bringing the UK’s commitment up to something like $64 million ($40 million British pounds) over the next two years.

Child receives polio vaccine

Polio has almost been eliminated from the planet — remaining endemic in only four countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria. But, outbreaks stubbornly persist. The new funding is aimed at helping fill in a $720 million shortfall in the global initiative.

Some quotes out of the Davos announcement:

Bill Gates: “Eliminating the last one percent of polio requires the kind of political leadership shown by the UK government and Prime Minister Cameron today…. Eradicating polio requires innovative thinking and political will, as well as funding from a range of donors, to support an aggressive program that will get the job done.”

Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization: “These new investments come at a critical time in the fight against polio…. We have a window of opportunity now, with cases at an all time low. But if there is polio anywhere we are at risk of polio everywhere. Only eradication will ensure that polio does not reemerge as a global threat.”

British PM David Cameron: “We have come so far in eradicating polio. We are so close to delivering a polio-free world for all our children. Let’s finish the job. And let’s eradicate polio once-and-for-all.”

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Editor Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom-at-humanosphere.org, follow him on Twitter @tompaulson and/or send a comment below.