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Press Release

Global Polio Eradication Partners applaud Rotary’s new US $88,557,000 pledge to world’s largest public health initiative

Partners urge international community to match Rotary’s commitment to polio eradication

BRISBANE, 3 June 2003 - The Global Polio Eradication Partners applauded Rotary International for its US $88,557,000 pledge to polio eradication. Rotary International today announced the results of its year long campaign to raise funds for a polio-free world at its international convention in Brisbane, Australia. The news comes 30 days after the announcement that a critical funding gap threatens the global polio eradication initiative.

Recognizing that insufficient funding is now the single biggest threat to polio eradication, Rotararians everywhere have held fundraising events or personally donated to the cause. In Tacoma Narrows, Washington, USA, 264 drummers converged to “Beat the Drums to Beat Polio” raising more than US$22,000. Throughout the world, 1.2 million members of Rotary have held auctions and charity raffles, cycled thousands of kilometres and organized many other activities to raise funds for eradicating polio. Rotary’s latest fundraising drive is in addition to over US$500 million already contributed to the cause.

On behalf of the Global Polio Eradication partnership of WHO, UNICEF and CDC, Dr Shigeru Omi, WHO’s Regional Director for the Western Pacific Region, today paid special tribute to Rotary International. Dr Omi, who led the polio eradication drive in the Western Pacific region praised Rotary and its 1.2 million members world-wide for their latest and much needed drive to immunize every child against polio. Rotary’s partners warned that the funding gap continues to stand in the way of a polio-free world, and urged the global community to follow Rotary’s lead and commit the necessary resources to getting the job done.

”Reaching every last child, in every corner of the world takes dollars, commitment and volunteers, “ Dr Omi told an enthusiastic crowd of 16,000 Rotary members in Brisbane. ”Rotary members have been on the front lines in their communities, creatively raising money, raising awareness of polio eradication, and reminding the world what Rotary is about - ‘service above self’.”

From UNICEF’s headquarters in New York, Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, added her congratulations: ”Rotarians really are the heart and soul of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” she said. ”Eighteen years ago they took their vision of a polio-free world for children to the international community. Since then they have contributed not just money, but passion, creativity and genuine hard work on the ground.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also applauded Rotary’s ceaseless dedication to the eradication effort. “We are closing in on global polio eradication. We thank Rotary for its vision in creating the PolioPlus program in 1985 to vaccinate all the world’s children against polio by 2005,” said Dr Stephen Cochi , Director, Global Immunization Division, CDC. ”Thanks to contributions from Rotary as well as others, the opportunity to wipe out polio is within reach.”

The Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by Rotary and its international partners, has slashed the incidence of polio by more than 99 per cent. In 1988, more than 350 000 children across the globe were suffering from polio. In 2002, the world had only 1919 reported cases in seven countries.

The Chairman of the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, Mr Glenn Kinross,
said: “The progress and commitment to date reaffirms the dedication of ordinary citizens throughout the world to this important cause. Rotary International and its members across the world have given so much to this initiative,” he said. “It is critical that the international community works towards protecting our collective investment in fighting this disease.”

Further information about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative:

• The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, CDC and UNICEF. The success of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is grounded on the solid private-public partnership which has been built with Rotary International.

• There are now 209 countries, territories and areas free of polio. Since 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has succeeded in reducing the number of polio cases from an annual 350 000 in more than 125 countries, to just 1919 in 2002, in seven countries, representing a more than 99 per cent reduction in annual polio cases. The seven remaining polio endemic countries are (from highest to lowest burden of disease): India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Niger, and Somalia. It is the lowest number of polio endemic countries in history.

• Rotary has been a key advocacy partner, raising the importance of polio eradication with government heads throughout the world. The largest private sector partner to the Initiative, this latest fundraising effort pushes Rotary’s total commitment to polio eradication to well over US$500 million.

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For further information, please contact :
Melissa Corkum, WHO/Geneva, tel. +41 79 500 6554, corkumm@who.int
Oliver Rosenbauer, WHO/Geneva, tel. +41 22 791 3832, rosenbauero@who.int
Vivian Fiore, Rotary Int’l/Chicago, tel. +1 847 866 3234, fiorev@rotaryintl.org
Steve Stewart, CDC/Atlanta, tel. +1 404 639 8327, znc4@cdc.gov
Claire Hajaj, UNICEF/New York, +1 (212) 326 7566, chajaj@unicef.org