Polio 'could be wiped out within a few years'
POLIO could be eradicated in the next two to four years, the billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates predicted yesterday, as he appealed to world leaders attending a global vaccine summit in London to commit extra funding to protect the world's poorest children.
If achieved, one of the most dreaded diseases of the 20th Century, which crippled thousands of children in Ireland and worldwide, could become the second to be consigned to the history books, after smallpox was eradicated in 1979.
Mr Gates was answering questions in a phone-in organised by Save the Children in advance of today's meeting of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, which seeks to raise £2.3bn (€2.6bn) to save four million lives over the next five years.
The cash is needed to fund two new vaccines that provide protection against pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who will host the summit, yesterday pledged to raise the UK's contribution to the alliance and defended the decision against critics within his own party, including Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, who have argued that to raise overseas aid spending at a time of domestic austerity could lead to legal challenges.
"I don't believe it would be right to ignore the difference we can make, turn inwards solely to our own problems and balance our books while breaking our promises to the world's poorest," Mr Cameron said.
Even sceptics about the value of aid admit that vaccination is one of the best and most cost-effective ways of protecting children. It is estimated that the lives of 20 million children have been saved over the past two decades. (© Independent News Service)