By Tim Ledwith
NEW YORK, USA, 9 September 2010 – Meeting at UN headquarters yesterday, the UNICEF Executive Board approved the extension of a global partnership with Rotary International that has helped the world move dramatically closer to eradicating the scourge of polio.
|VIDEO: 8 September 2010 - Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, Chair of the Rotary Foundation Trustees, discusses Rotary International's partnership with UNICEF for global polio eradication.|
“I do believe this is the easiest of the decisions the Board will be making,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, who lauded Rotary for its enduring commitment to the fight against the paralysing and sometimes fatal childhood disease.
Mr. Lake pointed out that over a million Rotarians have volunteered their time to raise more than $900 million for polio eradication during the past quarter century.
“Rotary International deeply values the longstanding relationship with UNICEF,” said Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, Chair of the Rotary Foundation Trustees, who represented the service organization at the Executive Board meeting. “Working together, we have succeeded in reducing the number of children affected by polio by more than 99 per cent,” he noted, adding that Rotary would continue its work with UNICEF “to ensure that we reach every child and conquer polio once and for all.”
In a related development, the Executive Board approved the extension of the Vaccine Independence Initiative, a multi-million-dollar revolving fund that helps cash-strapped governments obtain essential vaccines.
Country programmes approved
On day two of their second regular session of 2010, Executive Board delegates also considered six new country programmes after approving 13 country and area programme documents that had been discussed at their June session. These programmes of cooperation set strategic priorities for UNICEF’s work on the ground in the respective countries for the next five years.
|VIDEO: Watch a presentation on the challenging work of UNICEF's Somalia office, one of the country programmes presented to the Executive Board for consideration at its second regular meeting of 2010.|
UNICEF’s seven Regional Directors addressed the meeting, presenting mid-term reviews of more than 30 ongoing country programmes, as well as the six new country programme documents, for the Executive Board’s consideration.
In his presentation on the draft country programme for Somalia, Elhadj As Sy, Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, highlighted the many obstacles that UNICEF and its partners must overcome in countries affected by conflict. Mr. As Sy outlined the reasons why Somali children are among the most vulnerable in the world and explained how the country programme has nevertheless made a difference – notably through the introduction of Child Health Days that reached over 2.5 million children and women with a package of essential health services last year.
The Regional Directors all cited growing disparities in child survival and development that are impeding progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs. These inequities are at the heart of UNICEF’s newly released ‘Progress for Children’ report, which calls for an equity-based approach – targeting the poorest of the poor – as a cost-effective means of narrowing the gaps and meeting the MDGs by 2015.
|VIDEO: 8 September 2010 - UNICEF Regional Director Daniel Toole discusses progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in South Asia, and the effects of the Pakistan flood crisis.|
“We have made great strides towards many of our MDG targets,” said Daniel Toole, Regional Director for South Asia. “Our challenge now is to ensure that the MDG goals are for all, and that we leave no one behind.”
Mr. Toole told the Executive Board that “pronounced inequalities” in South Asia were hindering development progress. In India, he said – citing national statistics – children born in the poorest households are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children born in the richest households.
Regional Director Steven Allen stated that his region, Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, “as a whole is on track to meet many of the MDGs by 2015.” But serious gaps remain, he said, including economic inequities, ethnic and gender discrimination, and the marginalization of young people living with HIV.
Mr. Allen also briefed delegates on the recent resurgence of polio in the European region – specifically, Tajikistan – which previously had been declared polio-free. He called for additional funding “to strengthen immunization systems and ensure that the region regains and then maintains its polio-free status.”
Partners for polio eradication
That goal may be a step closer to reality as a result of the Executive Board’s decision to extend UNICEF’s polio-eradication partnership with Rotary International for another five years, through 2015.
|VIDEO: 8 September 2010 - UNICEF Regional Director Steven Allen talks about development challenges in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, including a resurgence of polio.|
The partnership between UNICEF and Rotary was formally established in 1990, but Rotarians’ dedication to a polio-free world predates even that milestone. Through its PolioPlus programme, established in 1985, Rotary has supported UNICEF’s procurement of millions of doses of polio vaccine and the ‘cold-chain’ equipment needed to preserve it during immunization campaigns.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative – led by Rotary, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – has made impressive gains. In 1988, over 125 countries were considered endemic for the disease, with an estimated 350,000 children paralysed each year. In 2009, about 1,600 cases were reported worldwide, and today just four nations remain endemic for the polio virus.
“We are at a historic moment,” said Executive Director Lake, referring to the final push for polio eradication despite recent setbacks. “We are absolutely committed to this goal.”
Rotary International: End Polio Now
(external link, opens in a new window)
Country programme discussions
On 8 September 2010, the Executive Board approved revised country and area programme documents for:
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Palestinian children and women
UNICEF’s Regional Directors presented summaries of proposed new country programme documents for the following countries in their respective regions.
East Asia and the Pacific: Indonesia
East and Southern Africa: Somalia, Zambia
South Asia: Maldives
The Americas and the Caribbean: Uruguay
West and Central Africa: Burkina Faso
UNICEF’s Regional Directors presented summaries of mid-term reviews covering the following country programmes in their respective regions.
Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent
States: Croatia, Republic of Moldova
East Asia and the Pacific: Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mongolia, Thailand
East and Southern Africa: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Zimbabwe
Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Oman, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Yemen
South Asia: India, Maldives, Nepal
The Americas and the Caribbean: Belize, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay
West and Central Africa: Central African Republic, Gabon, Gambia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal