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Global health organizations recognize Rotary International’s unprecedented role in the fight to end polio worldwide

GENEVA/NEW YORK/ATLANTA, 21 June 2005 – On the occasion of Rotary International’s 100th anniversary, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative today paid tribute to the humanitarian service organization’s commitment to ending polio worldwide.

As a key partner in the Initiative – the world’s largest health drive which also includes the World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and UNICEF – Rotary is the leading private-sector contributor second only to the United States Government.  Since 1985, when Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, individual Rotary members have collectively raised US$600 million and contributed countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.

“In the effort to eradicate polio, Rotary International has spurred a model private-public partnership. The combined strengths of civil society, the private sector, governments and international agencies, have made enormous progress in what seemed an impossible task."  ” Dr. LEE Jong-wook, Director General of WHO, told Rotarians gathered for the centenary celebrations in Chicago, Illinois.

The spread of polio could end this year. Just over 1,000 cases were reported in 2004, compared to 350,000 in 1988– a 99 percent reduction.  Of the remaining six endemic countries, four in Asia and North Africa have recorded just 30 cases between them in 2005. In west and central Africa, only three countries have reported cases this year: Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.  This is despite a major epidemic that swept the region in 2004, causing outbreaks in 16 previously polio-free countries.

African nations have fought hard against this epidemic, launching massive synchronized immunization drives reaching over 100 million children. The latest previously polio-free countries to record polio importations are Yemen and Indonesia, where governments are holding emergency immunization campaigns to stop the virus becoming re-established.

Thanks to these efforts, the end of polio looks close.  But the goal is threatened by a major funding shortfall.  This initiative urgently needs US$50 million dollars in 2005 and another $200 million in 2006. 

“Rotarians continue to be the heart and soul of the polio eradication effort,” said Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF. “In addition to their own record-breaking financial contribution for polio eradication and countless volunteer hours, Rotarians have helped leverage a further $1.7 billion from governments for the cause.”

At Rotary’s Centennial celebrations in Chicago, Illinois, the partners presented Rotary with a statue symbolizing the drops of oral polio vaccine that protect children from the disease.  Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of CDC, said “The day the world is declared polio-free, we will all have Rotary International to thank."

Rotary International is the world’s first and one of the largest non-profit service organizations.  It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in over 33,000 clubs in more than 160 countries. In 1988, a resolution of the World Health Assembly formed the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
 

For further information, please contact:

Sona Bari, WHO Geneva: +41 22 791 1476, baris@who.int
Oliver Phillips, UNICEF New York: +1 212 326 7583, ophillips@unicef.org
Alice Pope, US CDC: +1 404 639 8525 aep2@cdc.gov
 
For more information on polio eradication can be found at www.polioeradication.org.  Footage is available to broadcasters at Video On Demand at www.unicef.org or from the Newsmarket.


 

 

 

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