With Global Partnership, Polio Eradication is a Winnable Battle

Meeting on Polio Eradication Hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the WHO

Remarks by U.S. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Department of Health and Human Services

Polio Meeting at the 64th World Health Assembly

Palais des Nations, Salle VII

Tuesday May 17, 2010

8:25 am – 9:15 am


Thank you. I am honored to join my fellow health ministers for this important conversation.

I want to thank our hosts Bill Gates, Director General Chan, and Assistant Director General Bruce Aylward for hosting us here today, but more importantly for their unwavering leadership and focus on such a critical issue.

I also want to thank Sir Liam Donaldson and his colleagues on the Independent Monitoring Board. Last month’s report was truly an urgent call to action.

Over the last year and a half, we have made progress on some fronts in our battle against polio such as India. But we still have a long way to go.

A number of nations continue to struggle including Angola, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and most notably Pakistan.

In each of these countries an Emergency Plan of Action has been established by the respective heads of state. And we sincerely applaud these efforts. Implementing them is urgent.

This is a global challenge. Until the disease is eradicated everywhere, it remains a threat everywhere. If we are serious about global polio eradication, we all have a role to play.

And the United States is committed to doing our part. Our Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to produce quarterly reviews of high-risk countries. And it will take a lead in supporting WHO regions to help them strengthen and standardize risk assessments in polio-free countries.

Agencies across our government will continue working with our incredible partners around the world to:

• develop mass vaccination campaigns,

• surveillance,

• routine strengthening,

• communication,

• community mobilization, and

• quality evaluation

…while holding all stakeholders to the highest levels of accountability.

With global partnership, polio eradication is a winnable battle. But achieving that goal also requires resources. We must overcome the $665 million funding gap for polio eradication that exists through 2012 – a task that’s harder than ever to achieve with the global economy still struggling.

So I want to thank the large donors and donor nations, many of whom are here today, including new donors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

For Fiscal year 2012, President Obama’s budget proposed an increase of $10.7 million dollars to further support polio eradication.

We will continue to advocate for support at venues such as the G-8 and G-20. And I encourage everyone in this room to prioritize their immunization budget to help minimize the risks posed by the current funding gap.

Eradicating polio doesn’t just mean eliminating the threat of paralysis and death for countless children and families. It doesn’t just mean saving billions of dollars in treatment and care.

It pays off in a million other important ways, opening new windows of opportunity and growth for entire communities and nations that no longer have to live with fear and uncertainty. That’s something we can all support and fight for together.

Thank you again for your continued partnership. I look forward to working together in the months and years ahead toward the day when polio is finally a thing of the past.