Jeff Raikes: 'Make-or-break time' to eradicate polio worldwide

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes says now is the time to eradicate polio. Plus, a breakdown of the foundation's top 10 investment areas in 2009.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

If we want to eradicate the polio virus from the world, we have a "narrow window of opportunity" to do so, writes Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation CEO Jeff Raikes.

Writing in the foundation's annual report released Tuesday, Raikes said that while polio is almost completely absent in developed nations, it still claims 2 million children each year worldwide -- most cases from India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Raikes also wrote that vaccines are "an extremely high-return investment" that can't be ignored, from both an ethical and a financial position.

We have a narrow window of opportunity. It is impossible to keep the virus at its current levels indefinitely. Either we eradicate polio—preventing suffering, saving billions of dollars, and demonstrating what is possible with a global effort—or we fail and start to backslide. If we fail, the number of cases will start to go back up, and the virus will spread back over borders into countries where it has been eliminated. We are seeing this play out in Tajikistan, part of a region declared polio-free in 2002, where 454 cases of polio have been confirmed this year.

The stakes are so high, and we have come so far, which is why I am so surprised that the world is short of the funding it needs to finish the job. Right now, there is not enough money past next summer to carry out all of the immunization activities to keep the world on track to eradicate polio. It's shocking, but funding from the G8 countries has actually gone down in the last several years.

The report itself details some of the foundation's work, including:

  • The provision of primary health services in Nepal.
  • The development of academic standards for K-12 students in the U.S
  • Training for local farmers in East Africa. (via a partnership with the Coca-Cola Company and TechnoServe)
  • Battling homelessness for families in the state of Washington.

Wondering how the foundation spends its trust fund? Here's a categorical breakdown of 2009 from the report:

  • Global Health: 60 percent ($1.827 billion)
  • Global Development: 22.2 percent ($677 million)
  • United States: 16 percent ($489 million)
  • Non-Program Grants: 1.7 percent ($53 million)

Those categories break down as follows:

Global Development

  • Agricultural Development ($316.5 million)
  • Financial Services for the Poor ($132.9 million)
  • Special Initiatives ($97.7 million)
  • Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene ($54.1 million)
  • Policy & Advocacy ($41.1 million)
  • Global Libraries ($34.9 million)

Global Health

  • Policy & Advocacy ($307.5 million)
  • Polio ($253.1 million)
  • Malaria ($243.4 million)
  • HIV/AIDS ($221.7 million)
  • Maternal, Newborn, & Child Health ($122.8 million)
  • Tuberculosis ($121.6 million)
  • Neglected and Other Infectious Diseases ($121.0 million)
  • Vaccine Delivery ($117.1 million)
  • Health, Science and Technology Discovery ($59.1 million)
  • Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases ($61.2 million)
  • Family Planning ($39.7 million)
  • Nutrition ($53.2 million)
  • Pneumonia ($51.1 million)
  • Tobacco ($34.7 million)
  • Special Initiatives ($19.3 million)

United States

  • U.S. Education ($373.2 million)
  • Scholarships ($42.8 million)
  • Pacific Northwest Community ($30.3 million)
  • Libraries ($18.9 million)
  • Advocacy: Policy & Communications ($16.4 million)
  • Homelessness ($7.3 million)

Non-program grants

  • Family Interest Grants ($42.4 million)
  • Charitable Sector Support ($7.1 million)
  • Employee Matching Gifts & Sponsorships ($3.2 million)

Arranged by topic, the top 10 investments for the foundation in 2009 were:

  1. U.S. education
  2. Global agricultural development
  3. Global health policy and advocacy
  4. Polio
  5. Malaria
  7. Financial services for the poor
  8. Maternal, newborn and child health
  9. Tuberculosis
  10. Neglected and other infectious diseases

Interesting stuff.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards