SEATTLE, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Bill Gates says vaccines he calls the most effective and cost-effective health tools ever invented are the best investment to improve the human condition.
In his annual letter on philanthropic campaigns, the head of Microsoft said the world is on the verge of eradicating polio, approaching the second time in history a human disease has successfully been eradicated, The Seattle Times reported Sunday. Smallpox was ruled officially eliminated in 1979.
Polio is endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. Fewer than 1,500 cases were reported last year.
Global efforts to end polio have cost more than $6 billion so far, and vaccinating children worldwide costs almost $1 billion a year, Gates said.
There currently is a $720-million-a-year funding gap, he said.
To narrow that gap, Gates has entered into a $100 million partnership with Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and announced that British Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to double Britain's commitment this year to about $62 million.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is increasing its $200 million annual contribution to $302 million, the Times reported.