Meet Anne Wafula Strike, a member of team GB. Anne was Born in Mihuu Kenya and came to the UK in April 2000. Anne started racing in 2002 and in 2004 became the first ever Kenyan to represent her country in her chosen sport. Following a successful application for British citizenship in 2006, Anne became a member of Team GB and now competes as a British athlete, striving towards London 2012.
Anne's story is an incredible inspiration, and shows how her drive, focus, talent and belief have helped her to break records and live out her sporting dreams on the greatest possible stage. However, her life was irrevocably changed at the age of two when she contracted polio. Anne is a paralympic wheelchair racer, and was the first ever Kenyan to participate in wheelchair racing at the Paralympics.
Her life and achievements are amazing, but she has spent her life disabled because of a disease that we know how to prevent. In the past thirty years the world has made incredible progress in fighting polio, and cases have been reduced by 99%, from more than 350,000 in 1988 to just 650 in 2011; and the number of polio-endemic countries has been reduced from 125 to now just 3. However, in those three countries, it unfortunately does still cripple and kill many children, most of them under five. No child should face a lifetime of disability from a disease we know how to prevent simply because of where they are born.
Progress has been made by ensuring that sufficient vaccines are available, that health workers and volunteers are trained to deliver them, and that communities are engaged in ensuring that all children receive the polio vaccine. But these measures are expensive - and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) needs at least $240m by January 2013 to just continue operating.
On the 26th May, 2012 the World Health Assembly declared polio an emergency for global public health. The World Health Organisation's resolution calls for its 194 member states to fully fund the GPEI. If polio is anywhere there is risk of polio everywhere and research has shown that the world would soon see more than 200,000 cases a year if it is not eradicated. Despite this the Minister responsible, Stephen O'Brien, has yet to make a statement.
A study in the Lancet in 2007 estimated the financial benefits of eradicating polio worldwide are estimated at US$40-50 billion by 2035, freeing up resources to tackle other pressing global health priorities.
What is the UK's role?
Whilst we cannot and should not cover the full funding cap, we must increase our financial contribution to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to help leverage global funds to cover the shortfall and end polio for good. We are therefore asking for the UK government to increase its financial support from within the existing DFID budget to enable the leveraging of greater funds globally, including from private donors who have played a large role in polio eradication thus far.
The UK has been one of the leading countries spearheading the charge to eradicate polio. However, the UK's funding commitment expires this year and no announcement has been made about funds going forward. We need you to write to the Secretary of State to tell him how important it is that the UK confirms that it will continue to play a major role in eradicating polio going forward, and that we will at least match our 2012 financial commitments.
How you can help
The Government is still deciding whether to make a new financial commitment to be part of the fight against polio as our current one runs out this year. Even after the World Health Assembly's declaration of polio as a global emergency for public health, the government has not yet made a statement about the UK's role in ending polio, and we don't yet know when they will announce whether they will make a new commitment or not.
We need you to write to the Secretary of State for International Development to tell him how important it is that the UK continues it's vital role, and urging him to confirm the UK's financial contribution and at least match the funding given in 2012 going forward.