BELGIUM —The European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have unveiled an ambitious financing partnership with the goal of tackling two critical global health challenges.

Their mission is twofold: to eradicate polio, a debilitating disease, and to ensure that pioneering health innovations become more accessible to those in dire need.

Polio, a once-dreaded disease, has nearly met its end, thanks to the collaboration of these global leaders.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF will play pivotal roles as implementing partners for the polio funding.

Together, they will channel these resources to eliminate polio, bolster the distribution of childhood immunizations, and fortify healthcare systems, enabling them to respond more effectively to emerging health crises.

With an impressive financing package of €1.1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion), this partnership aspires to achieve a remarkable feat: the eradication of only the second human disease in history.

Moreover, it aims to address health and development disparities faced by the world’s most vulnerable populations, who often lack equitable access to healthcare services and innovations.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, remarked, “We are about to wipe polio off the face of the Earth… 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.”

This partnership represents a substantial increase in funding for global health and human development, funded by the European Commission’s European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+).

Notably, it is expected to be complemented by additional funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, maximizing the impact of every Euro invested by the EU and the European Investment Bank.

Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank, emphasized the significance of the initiative, saying, “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 €500 million for investment in support of the Global Polio Eradication Programme.”

The partnership’s primary goal is to provide €500 million (US$529.1 million) in support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, particularly directed towards the WHO and UNICEF.

This substantial funding will cover polio vaccinations for approximately 370 million children annually, providing vital health services alongside polio campaigns, including immunizations for diseases like measles, and reinforcing healthcare systems to better confront emerging health threats.

Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, expressed his commitment to eradicating polio and making health innovations more accessible, particularly to those in impoverished nations. He affirmed, “Today we’re on the verge of ending another – wild poliovirus.”

The partnership also allocates €500 million (US$529.1 million) to expand the innovation capacity of health systems in low- and middle-income countries.

This includes new funding for initiatives supported by the European Commission, aimed at making health innovations, such as mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics, more accessible to underserved populations.

In addition, €80 million in grants for Technical Assistance is part of this endeavor, ensuring that global health programs reach their full potential.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, noted, “Reaching un- or under-vaccinated children in the most remote and hardest-to-reach areas is essential for finishing the job of polio eradication.

“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.”

This historic funding partnership encompasses several critical elements, including new funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, investments in health innovations, and technical assistance grants.

Notably, it builds upon existing collaborations between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the European Commission and Member States, further enhancing their joint efforts to improve healthcare access and promote global health equity.

These prior efforts include a €100 million support package for the newly established African Medicines Agency (AMA) and for national African medicines regulatory agencies and regional initiatives.

They have also worked together on the African Health Diagnostics Platform, which aims to assist African partners in enhancing access to laboratory testing while reducing costs.

Furthermore, their cooperative efforts encompass various health initiatives, such as COVAX, a global partnership focused on accelerating the development, production, and equitable distribution of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

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