THE BLOG

World Polio Day - 99% of the Way There

24/10/2014 10:56 BST | Updated 23/12/2014 10:59 GMT

We achieved some incredible things in the 20th century. We reached out to the stars and put a man on the moon; united against racism, we stood up to and ended apartheid in South Africa; we created the internet and revolutionised the way we communicate with each other; and we started to address shameful gender inequality by securing the right to vote for women. These monumental achievements not only define the last century but crucially shape society today. But what will this generations legacy be? At Global Citizen we're building a movement to make the end of extreme poverty everywhere our generations greatest legacy. We're identifying key policy change that will accelerate progress and joining together to get decision makers to make the right interventions.

World Polio Day gives us the opportunity to do just that. It shines a light on the magnificent effort by the international community to almost eradicate only the second human disease in history, and galvanises our movement to act to get rid of polio completely. The campaign to end this killer virus has been so successful that the number of polio-endemic countries has gone from 125 in 1988 to just three in 2014. We now sit on the precipice of its extinction - we're 99% of the way there. Polio is an ancient disease that has affected every country on this planet at some point or another, and to now only have three polio-endemic countries is an unbelievable achievement.

But the fight's not over. We may have wiped out over 99% of polio but whilst there is even just 1% out there, we are all still in danger. Because polio spreads. Mostly through water, which makes it extremely transmittable. This means that now more than ever we must march forward, any deviations from our course could see polio back, with a vengeance. As we're seeing in west Africa right now, vaccines are essential tools in protecting humanity and securing the end of extreme poverty.

Luckily there is a strong, concerted effort to wipe out polio once and for all. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is an international partnership that is led by organisations such as Rotary International, The World Health Organisation, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Working with Governments from across the world, we at Global Citizen have been working with these heroes leading to the charge in a battle to end polio once and for all.

As long as we don't take our foot off the pedal, the fight against polio is one we're going to win. Vaccines work and they've proven time and time again incredible value for money. That's why this month we're taking on another battle to save millions of children's lives across the world. It starts with one of those statistics it's hard to believe true in 2014 - up to two million children die every year of these from diseases like diarrhoea. It's inconceivable that such a huge number of children die so needlessly, but this is the reality of extreme poverty. So we're working with another international organisation who have been hugely successful in fighting early child deaths - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a private and publically funded international organisation that immunises children in the hardest to reach places against disease that we don't even hear about anymore in the UK. Since its formation in 2000, Gavi has immunised nearly half a billion children and saved more than six million lives- an incredible achievement. This month they launch their new strategy to save another 6 million lives - and in half the time.

Gavi relies on funding from both the private and public sector. Organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation join Governments from around the world to ensure that those who need vaccinations the most get them. The UK has been a lead donor, and a central reason why Gavi has been so successful. By investing in Gavi from the very start, we have led the world in the fight against preventable child deaths- something we can all be proud of. However that financial contribution comes to an end next year, so it's time for us continue that wonderful leadership.

Right now the Minister for International Development, Justine Greening, is deciding whether to reinvest in Gavi and if so, how much. Global Citizen is calling on the UK Government to commit an extra £1.2 billion spread over 5 years for Gavi. This amount would immunise 85 million children and save 1.5 million lives. Imagine that, together, right now, we could save 1.5 million children.

We believe that when an inspired, critical mass of individuals take meaningful action, we can change the policies and practices that contribute to keeping people in extreme poverty. At GlobalCitizen.org we had over 65,000 of our Global Citizens take action to end polio- from emailing decision makers to social media campaigning. And it didn't stop there. Because of their efforts we managed to secure almost $800 million dollars of funding from the Governments of the UK, Australia, Canada and the Isle of Mann to support the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. You can join that movement at GlobalCitizen.org and together we'll ensure that Gavi gets the funding it needs.

Interventions like this will help us achieve our goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030. Imagine if actually did it? We've already halved it in the past 20 years so the opportunity is there for us to grasp, and it won't come again. We must seize moments like this with our hands, raising our voices, and if we can come together at key times we can end needless, senseless suffering forever.