EU Pledges Extra $ For Polio Fight

Child receives oral polio vaccine, Gisenyi, Rwanda.
The European Union's head office Friday announced its intention to commit an extra $75 million to help eradicate polio in Africa — a goal to be championed at next week's Group of Eight summit.

The EU pledge would fill more than half the $126 million gap in resources needed, according to World Health Organization estimates cited by the European Commission.

Poul Nielson, the European commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, said eradicating polio would not only rid the world of a debilitating virus, but could free up funds for other needs.

"Eradicating polio is an investment we cannot afford to miss," he said in a statement.

G-8 leaders are expected to announce a firm commitment to provide the necessary resources at their three-day economic summit, starting Tuesday, off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia.

The 25 EU governments are expected to approve the funding in September and the money will be disbursed over 2004-2006, an EU spokesman said.

The EU pledge will target 14 countries: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Togo. Activities will be implemented by the WHO.