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.