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Further Australian support for global polio eradication.

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The Hon Bruce Billson MP Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade

AA 05 50 Wednesday 29 June 2005

Further Australian support for global polio eradication

Australia will contribute a further $2.5 million towards critical international efforts to eradicate polio, the Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bruce Billson, announced today at the United Nations in New York.

‘This latest funding for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will make a real difference to saving lives and working to achieve a future free of a disease which in recent times crippled more than one thousand children a day,’ Mr Billson said.

‘Australian Government assistance will help vulnerable young children living in poor communities that receive little or no basic health care. Success in the polio fight now depends on reaching these under-immunised groups in order to completely interrupt virus transmission.

‘Polio typically affects children under the age of three, causing symptoms of fever to most, while one per cent are paralysed or die as the virus attacks their central nervous system,’ Mr Billson said.

‘According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of cases has fallen by more than 99 per cent since 1985 and the disease has been eradicated in all but six countries, with most cases now linked to a few polio hotspots in Nigeria, Pakistan and India,’ Mr Billson said.

‘Australia’s contributions will support strategic polio eradication, including technical support in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, and supplementary immunisation activities in Pakistan and Nigeria,’ Mr Billson said.

‘This latest support increases the Australian Government’s contribution to Rotary International for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to $7.6 million under a four year matched funding agreement, signed in May 2001. Rotary International has been working since 1985 in partnership with the WHO, UNICEF and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to eradicate polio from the world by 2005.

‘Since 1992, the Australian Government through AusAID has supported polio surveillance and immunisation campaigns in China, Cambodia, Indonesia, PNG and the Pacific.

‘This includes our recent ccontribution of $1 million to support for administering polio vaccines to 5.2 million children in Indonesia following the detection of live polio virus in West Java. This highlights the continuing need for vigilant international surveillance and maintenance of high immunisation levels,’ Mr Billson said.

The Parliamentary Secretary is currently in New York leading an Australian delegation at the UN High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development and the High Level Segment of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 24 June - 3 July.

Media inquiries: Shane Fairlie (Mr Billson's office) 0408 680 442 AusAID (Public Affairs) 0417 680 590

Media releases and speeches are available on AusAID’s internet site