The Harper Government lifts cap on polio matching fund

February 23, 2013 - Countless children will be protected from contracting a debilitating disease, thanks to additional support to the 'Pennies and More for Polio matching fund initiative', augmenting its original commitment. The Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of International Cooperation, announced today that Canada would not only match contributions of up to $1 million, as announced last September, but will match all contributions raised by Rotarians by March 1, 2013, in support of eradicating polio. TheBill & Melinda Gates Foundation also announced that it will be matching contributions, dollar for dollar.

"Canadian generosity is second to none, as shown by this tremendous initiative, which has not only met, but surpassed, its goal", said Minister Fantino. "The Harper Government is pleased to be a key partner in combating this devastating disease, but money alone cannot eradicate polio. We call on the leadership in those countries still affected to promote science-based information and ensure a safe environment for polio immunization workers."

Last September, Minister Fantino challenged Canadians to join in this fight by supporting Rotarians in Canada to reach their fundraising goal by March 1, 2013. Under Pennies and More for Polio, Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had each originally agreed to match dollar-for-dollar donations made by Canadians to the Rotary Foundation to a maximum of $1 million. With the outstanding achievement of Rotary's goal well in advance of its March deadline, both have now agreed to match the total amount of funds raised through the initiative, which is expected to reach more than $1.6 million, to be provided to the World Health Organization's Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

"Canada's support has been, and will continue to be, critical in the final push to end polio" said Dr. Robert Scott, Chair of Rotary's International Polio Eradication Committee. "We are on the verge of eradicating this deadly disease, and must redouble our efforts to ensure that the goal is reached."

In October 2011, Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed Canada's support for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which builds on CIDA's ongoing commitment to improve the health of mothers, newborns, and children.

"We have a unique window of opportunity to change history and end polio thanks to tremendous advances in 2012" said Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This innovative program is another example of Canada's and Rotarians" long-time commitment and leadership to ensuring children are forever protected from this debilitating, but preventable, disease."

Since 1988, Canada and its partners have supported the immunization of hundreds of millions of children, which has led to the eradication of the polio virus from almost every country on earth, and continue to put an end to this disease in the few vulnerable pockets where it remains.

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For more information, media should contact:

Daniel Bezalel Richardsen
Press Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation
Telephone: 819-953-6238
Email: danielbezalel.richardsen@acdi-cida.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534
Email: media@acdi-cida.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @CIDA_CA

Backgrounder

Pennies and More for Polio initiative

The Government of Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will match all contributions raised by Rotarians in Canada by March 1, 2013 for the 'Pennies and More for Polio initiative'.

At the 67th annual United Nations General Assembly in September 2012, Canada's Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino, together with Rotarians in Canada and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a joint undertaking called Pennies and More for Polio.

CIDA and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation originally agreed to match dollar for dollar donations by Canadians to the Rotary Foundation, to a maximum of $1 million each, up until March 1, 2013.

To date, Rotarians in Canada have exceeded this fundraising goal, having raised over $1.6 million. Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will now match the total amount of funds raised through the initiative. This will mean every dollar raised by Rotarians in Canada until the March deadline will be leveraging an additional $2 towards polio eradication. Funds will be provided directly to the World Health Organization's Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership whose goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. The GPEI was launched in 1988 by national governments, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.

The additional resources announced today for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will contribute to a reduction in polio cases and build on Canada's ongoing commitment to improve maternal, newborn, and child health. Canada's support for polio eradication is based on the Muskoka Initiative, which aims to reduce maternal mortality and childhood morbidity.

Since 2000, Canada has supported polio-eradication efforts by working with partners to immunize millions of children and help eradicate polio in the remaining polio-endemic countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.