Pledges £300m over the next six years at Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi
For decades, polio ruined the lives of countless children and ended countless more. For decades, millions of people lived under the threat of polio; regardless of whether they lived in countries rich or poor. Today, through firm resolve and dedication, the threat of polio has receded from our shores. Thanks to an effective vaccine, a system of delivery and the political will to bring those two together, polio was wiped out. This is the story of polio in the United Kingdom, but it is not the story of polio everywhere. Until now.
Polio hasn't been endemic in the UK for over 40 years, but it remained at-large in poor countries for decades. However, in the past 30 years, global cases of polio have sunk from over 350,000 in 1988 to just 223 last year. That's a 99% decrease. The fight to defeat polio has arguably been the single greatest triumph of global public health in the past century. For the first time this century, we stand on the edge of eliminating a human disease. Whether in the world's wealthiest or poorest nations, the day when all humanity will be free of the threat of polio is finally within sight.
The United Kingdom has been central to that fight. In fact, proportionate to GNI, the UK is the single greatest government donor of polio vaccinations in history. Successive British governments have worked to eradicate the disease that destroyed the lives of so many of their people. For 30 years, the UK has been at the forefront of world governments who realised that as long as a single case of polio existed beyond our borders, all the world's children were at risk. That fight is almost won. Just three countries still have ongoing struggles with the disease.
Today, the Department for International Development announced that they were putting the final nail in polio's coffin, with an incredible donation of £300m over the next six years. This money will go on to vaccinate up to 360m children around the world. Not only that, but this new lease of a life free from polio will allow those children to grow, and has afforded them the best chance they could possibly have of a life beyond polio and, ultimately, beyond poverty.
Justine Greening, Secretary of State for International Development said: "Britain will not stand on the sidelines while easily-preventable diseases like polio are still a risk to thousands of people around the world. Our generation has a genuine opportunity to make the devastating disease of polio a thing of the past, just as has happened with smallpox. We now call on all other donors to join us because the healthier a population, the better able it is to contribute to and benefit from economic development."
With the generosity of this commitment and the steadfastness of their support, the British Government have taken that final step towards a polio-free world; a world which we could now see as early as 2018. This commitment means that in our lifetime, we will see the end of polio. Moreover, it means that hundreds of millions of children will now live to see it in their lifetimes, too. That is what the UK has just set out. Thanks to that commitment, we now know how this story will end, and when.
World-changing, if I’m honest, is something that I have always aspired to, but thought was outside the realms of possibility for me as an individual. After all, I am only one of 85,000 people who live on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea. I have done some things such as sponsor a child, sign a petition and live of £1 a day for five days for charity, but could I actually change the world?
However, as a Global Poverty Ambassador with the Global Poverty Project I have seen the truth in the statement from anthropologist Margaret Mead ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ I have been empowered to understand that grassroots activism is a key component in seeing the world change, in fact, without it world-changing wouldn’t be possible.
As Global Poverty Ambassador on the Isle of Man in 2012 I was not only able to appreciate the great work of individuals and government that had already taken place, but also act as a catalyst for more individuals and key funders to take further action. With the help of other passionate volunteers, we saw the Live Below the Line campaign receive full local media coverage and we ran a campaign to call on the Isle of Man Government to increase their international aid budget in order to work towards the 0.7% target. Recently, we have also seen a landmark commitment being made to the end of polio strategy.
Since 2009 The Rotary Club of Douglas on the Isle of Man has led the way in raising funds for the End Polio Now campaign and in response to this the Isle of Man Government gave a contribution from the international development fund in 2012. But 2013 is an important year for the fight against polio and commitment to funding for the next six years is vital to seeing this disease removed from the world for all time.
Having built relationship with Kevin Kneen, local End Polio Now chair, who recently received the Regional Service Award for a Polio Free World awarded via Rotary International in the USA, as well as the Isle of Man Government International Development Committee, it was apparent that the Isle of Man could play a significant role in the global fight against polio. With the support of the Global Poverty Project it was announced this week that the Isle of Man would become the first 2013 non-traditional donor contributing towards the end of polio strategy by committing £90k over the next three years.
As Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, highlighted in her comment to The Independent on Sunday on 12th April ‘Without global eradication the risk of disease always remains. It will take a concerted global effort with real investment from donors, development banks and foundations.’ The Isle of Man has now made such an effort and we hope that it encourages other governments, donors and foundations to do the same, particularly in the light of the Global Vaccination Summit this week.
However, the response of the Isle of Man Government would not have been possible without the committed and thoughtful citizens, whom Kevin Kneen and myself represent. Individuals who have continued to raise their voices and take action on behalf of those still living in extreme poverty. Each of us can change the world; we merely need to consider what we can do and do it, without delay.
Today marks a watershed moment in the effort to eradicate extreme poverty. 43 years since the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid was made at the 1970 UN General Assembly, the UK Government has kept its promise to the world’s poorest people. The first of the world’s richest countries to do so; the UK has set an outstanding example ahead of the G8 Summit in June.
Despite tough economic times, the UK recognises that aid works and that - both in financial and humanitarian terms - the cost of doing something is less than the cost of doing nothing. Take polio, for example. Thanks to the UK Government’s leadership in tackling this debilitating disease, millions of children have been vaccinated as a result of British aid, and only 0.1% of the disease survives, globally.
The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated. It has signaled a seismic shift in the way the rich countries treat poorer countries. And finally we can focus not on how much money we spend but how effective the money spent can be.
But there is more to do. We need to ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share, so that the developing world doesn’t lose three times what it receives in aid to tax-dodging each year. In poorer countries we need to stop land the size of London being grabbed by foreign investors every six days. And we must protect farmers and give them the chance to live off the food they grow, rather than fueling cars in rich countries.
We must do all these things. But today, on this rare and historic occasion, we must make the time for something else. We must take the time to say ‘thank you’. Decisions like the one the UK took today are brave enough in buoyant financial times, so the fact that it was taken in relatively stormy waters makes it all the more worthy of recognition.
Today we recognise that millions of people across the world will have their lives changed by this decision. Today, we should take the time to thank the UK Government for this historic step and thank the millions of people and organisations who over the last 43 years tirelessly campaigned for this moment, because tomorrow, the work towards the next step forward begins anew.
Today George Osborne will rise and deliver one of the most anticipated Budgets in British history. It’s historic for a number of reasons, not least because of the economic challenges domestically, but he will also have the opportunity to fulfil a 43-year commitment – spending 0.7% of the UK’s income on international aid.
We’ve been arguing for this for so long that almost everyone assumes we already have it… we don’t. It’s taken hundreds of meetings, thousands of marchers, millions of petition signatures to carry through a 1970 UN resolution, and the UK will be the first G8 country to do so. Campaigning alongside the UK’s Enough Food for Everyone (IF) campaign and nearly 100 leading charities to demand an end to hunger– we know aid works.
As a result, we can now focus not on how much we spend but how the money is spent. At the Global Poverty Project, we want to use this opportunity as a springboard to eradicate one of the oldest and most tragic diseases – polio. We have a unique window of opportunity to end this disease, and alongside the UK, we’re asking countries globally to help fund a new plan that has been put together to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.
Increased aid has accelerated vaccination programmes and decreased the prevalence of polio. Polio has now been eradicated by 99.9% and remains endemic only in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), comprising of the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has long campaigned for funding that will see an end to polio – and they’ve almost succeeded. With the end of polio within reach, the GPEI has worked closely with the governments of polio-affected countries to put together the plan to finally wipe out this disease – the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018.
The UK has a lot to be proud of; we’ve been a global leader committing around £100m to polio eradication efforts over the past five years. But this funding ends next month. Recommit this funding and the legacy of 0.7% could be the eradication of the second-ever human disease in history.
April’s Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, is the chance for the British government to announce its new funding commitment. We’re campaigning for the Department for International Development to make another three-year commitment to help us rid the world of polio. The GPEI’s new Strategic Plan sets out a clear strategy to end this disease – secure the necessary support and say goodbye polio.
Today we hope George Osborne will confirm 0.7% of our income on international aid. This is our opportunity to prove what’s achievable through well-directed international aid. And by continuing to take the lead on this issue, we can help convince other countries to do the same. Together, we can end polio.
The UK’s biggest charities today join together to launch the 2013 Live Below the Line campaign – the biggest yet.
On 29th April to 3rd May, thousands of people across the UK will join together again to help tackle extreme poverty by living on just £1 a day for their food and drink, raising awareness and funds in the process.
Live Below the Line is helping to build a movement, a movement of global citizens willing and able to make a meaningful difference to those who need it most - and it’s gathering pace.
In 2012 the Live Below the Line campaign was hugely successful and I want to tell you exactly what we achieved.
Together, we raised over 500K for anti-poverty causes - huge progress towards eradicating extreme poverty. We spoke to thousands of people about the issues, debated solutions with friends, our tweets were seen by millions and our personal stories made the front pages of national and local news.
If you participated or donated last year – thank you. But in 2013, we need you again. We’re not done yet. The 2013 campaign launches today, and it promises to be bigger and better than ever before.
Just imagine what we could do if 10,000 people took the challenge.
We’ve joined forces with some of the country's most talented chefs, TV personalities, politicians, the UK's biggest charities, schools, churches, mosques and synagogues, campaigners and fundraisers – young and old alike to have an even greater impact in 2013.
Join us by taking the Live Below the Line challenge this April. Sign up here.