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Today, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a new financing partnership to address critical global health opportunities: eradicating polio and ensuring that innovations in health are more accessible to the people who need them most. The World Health Organization and UNICEF, as implementing partners for the polio funding, will deploy the resources to eradicate polio, support the distribution of other childhood immunizations and strengthen health systems so they are better able to respond to emerging health threats.

The expected €1.1 billion financing package aims to provide new funding to eradicate a human disease for only the second time in history and help solve the health and development challenges faced by the world’s most vulnerable people, who otherwise do not get fair access to healthcare services and innovations.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “We are about to wipe polio off the face of the Earth. The European Commission, the EIB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are partnering to get through the final stretch. With 1 billion euros supported by our European investment strategy Global Gateway, we will invest in stronger health systems globally and local vaccine and medicines production, manufacturing and administration, where it is most needed. Global cooperation has helped us put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now it will help us get rid of polio once and for all.”

The partnership marks a significant increase in funding for global health and human development under the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+) and is expected to include a match of new complementary funding for global health by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maximising the impact of every Euro committed by the EU and the European Investment Bank.

“Today we are united to write the final chapter in the history of polio. The European Investment Bank is playing its part in a unique partnership with philanthropy and health partners, by providing EUR 500 million for investment in support of the Global Polio Eradication Programme. This initiative will be a milestone in scaling up immunization and strengthening healthcare, ensuring that every child, regardless of their circumstances, can be protected against polio,” said Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank.

To promote swift progress towards eradicating wild poliovirus, the partnership aims to deliver €500 million in payments to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative – specifically the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The funds will cover polio vaccinations for nearly 370 million children annually; deliver vital health services to children alongside polio campaigns, including measles vaccines and other routine immunizations; and strengthen health systems to better prepare and respond to emerging health threats, as the polio program has done against COVID-19, Ebola, and other diseases. Today, wild poliovirus remains endemic in just two countries – Pakistan and Afghanistan – and 80% of variant poliovirus cases are found in just four subnational regions.

“Thanks to medical innovations, the world eradicated one human disease – smallpox. Today we’re on the verge of ending another – wild poliovirus. I am committed to ensuring that no child, anywhere in the world, faces this awful disease. I am also optimistic that we will eradicate polio once and for all and make health innovations more accessible for everyone, particularly those in the poorest countries,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Another €500 million aims to expand the innovation capacity of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. This includes new funding to initiatives supported by the European Commission such as efforts to make health innovations like mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics more accessible to people in low- and middle-income countries, under Europe’s investment plan for the world, Global Gateway. More investments in health worldwide will be discussed among global leaders and partners at the upcoming Global Gateway Forum (25-26 October)

“Thanks to the leadership and partnership of the European Commission and European Investment Bank, vaccines, medicines and other life-saving innovations should reach the people who need them most, making communities everywhere healthier. We know that when a community is healthy, economies grow,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“Reaching un- or under-vaccinated children in the most remote and hardest-to-reach areas is essential for finishing the job of polio eradication,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “These new funds will not only help to drive us towards a polio-free world, but will also help to build more sustainable and resilient health systems to protect the same children and communities who are at risk of polio against the many other health threats they face.”

“Polio eradication is within reach, but the progress is fragile, and we must remain laser focused,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This new funding will help ensure that all children get vaccinated to eradicate polio, while strengthening community-based health systems. No child should suffer from an easily preventable disease.”

Specifically, the funding partnership is expected to include:

  • €500 million in new funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (as outlined above)
  • €500 million in investments and grants to ensure health innovations are more accessible, strengthen health systems and prepare for future pandemics: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to provide €250 million of grants and investments to match a €250 million in investments made by the European Investment Bank and guaranteed by the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus.
  • €80 million grants for Technical Assistance: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation expects to match €40 million in grants from the European Commission to provide technical assistance and ensure that global health programs achieve their full potential.

The partnership announced today builds from existing partnerships between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Commission and Member States, including a €100 million support package for the recently established African Medicines Agency (AMA) and national African medicines regulatory agencies or regional initiatives, the African Health Diagnostics Platform, which supports African partners to increase access and reduce costs of laboratory testing, and coordination on health initiatives such as COVAX, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

Background information

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of Co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.

Media Contact: media@gatesfoundation.org  

About the European Commission

The Commission helps to shape the EU's overall strategy, proposes new EU laws and policies, monitors their implementation and manages the EU budget. It also plays a significant role in supporting international development. In 2021, the European Commission launched Global Gateway, Europe’s investment strategy for the world. Global Gateway is the EU’s offer to partner countries in support of their lasting growth, their green and digital transitions and the development and well-being of communities. Across the world, Global Gateway aims to mobilise €300 billion in investments between 2021 and 2027 with a mix of grants, concessional loans and guarantees to de-risk private sector investments. It invests in a wide range of projects, from hard infrastructure to health programmes, in line with the EU’s Global Health Strategy.

About the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership, spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.  Since its launch in 1988, this partnership has helped prevent more than 20 million cases of paralysis, prevented more than 1.5 million childhood deaths and reduced the incidence of wild poliovirus by 99 percent, from more than 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries, to seven cases in two endemic countries in 2023.  For more information, please visit www.polioeradication.org