Statement on Polio Eradication

Mr. LEAHY.  Mr. President, today is World Polio Day and I want to comment briefly about the funding to support global polio eradication efforts in the Senate version of the fiscal year 2020 Department of State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill, which was reported unanimously by the Appropriations Committee on September 26th.

Polio is a highly infectious, crippling, and potentially fatal disease. While there is no cure, there are safe and effective vaccines. The global strategy to eradicate polio, therefore, focuses on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

Through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States provides financial support and technical leadership around the world to support the eradication strategy. USAID focuses specifically on recognizing and raising the importance of identifying and reaching mobile populations, cross-border coordination, communications, and the need for more women vaccinators and community-based disease surveillance.

Since global polio eradication efforts began 30 years ago, when cases numbered 350,000 annually, polio has been eliminated in more than 120 countries and remains endemic in only three – Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

But, while significant progress has been made, much work remains. Cases of polio persist in insecure areas and in countries with porous borders and large migratory populations, posing considerable obstacles to eradication. However, while there have been real setbacks, and the goal posts continue to change, complacency is not an option.

To that end, the Appropriations Committee has recommended $61 million in fiscal year 2020, an increase of $2 million over last year, for USAID’s polio eradication activities. Increased resources are necessary to get over the finish line in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and to demonstrate the continued U.S. commitment to polio eradication. It is our hope that this increase will cause other donors to follow our example.

I am not alone in my support for these activities. The State and Foreign Operations subcommittee heard from more than 20 members – Republicans and Democrats – requesting funding for global polio eradication efforts in fiscal year 2020.

So while many Senators have advocated for this critical funding, I want to be sure that all 100 Senators are aware of these efforts which are essential to achieving a polio-free world.

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