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Joint press release

Global Polio Eradication Initiative welcomes OIC decision to step up effort to eradicate polio

New resolution clear demonstration of OIC’s resolve to strengthen health equity for all

EMBARGOED UNTIL 20 October 2003, 00.00 GMT

Location: 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Putrajaya, Malaysia

MALAYSIA, 20 October 2003 – The spearheading partners in the global fight to eradicate polio – World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF – today welcomed a landmark resolution by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to wipe out polio from remaining polio-infected OIC countries. 

The renewed commitment from the OIC comes at a critical time for the eradication campaign; six of the world’s seven remaining countries that are still infected with polio are OIC Member States – Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Niger and Somalia.

Heads of State from 57 countries adopted the new resolution, which was presented by the Government of Malaysia and other OIC Members, on the last day of the 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference in Putrajaya.  The document urges the OIC countries still polio-endemic to accelerate their efforts to drive it out.  It also calls on the international community – including OIC Member States and philanthropic organizations in the Islamic world – to come up with the necessary funds to stop transmission completely by 2005. 

“This statement by the OIC is extremely important at this stage of the eradication effort,” said Dr Hussein A Gezairy, Regional Director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Region.  “This commitment is vital to wiping out this terrible disease in the remaining endemic OIC countries.  We look forward to working with OIC Member States in operationalizing the resolution.” 

“OIC countries have demonstrated their resolve to protect their children against polio, with 51 of its 57 Member States already polio-free,” said Dr David Heymann, Representative of the Director-General for Polio Eradication, WHO, addressing the OIC delegation at the Summit.  “However, the remaining endemic countries are also endangering children in polio-free areas.  Three previously polio-free OIC countries have been re-infected this year, demonstrating again how important it is that we finish the job.”

The OIC resolution on polio eradication follows concerns raised at the World Health Assembly in May 2003 by many OIC countries, including Bangladesh, Iran, Oman, Saudia Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, about the risk ongoing transmission anywhere poses to polio-free countries, further highlighting the need to quickly eradicate this disease.

Speaking from the Conference, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam congratulated the OIC on its decision, which he called a vital step towards a major victory for children of the Islamic world.  “No country is safe from polio if its neighbours are not,” he said.  “This disease continues to wreak havoc and cost countries millions of dollars wherever it appears; but common purpose and common action will be the swiftest route to a polio-free world for all of us.”
Rotary International has made ending polio its main philanthropic goal since 1985.  “Rotary’s 1.2 million members are dedicated to wiping out polio, having committed volunteer support and well over US$500 million to this effort.  The OIC resolution is an important step to protecting the world’s collective investment in the eradication initiative,” said Jonathan Majiyagbe, President of Rotary International.

Experts warn that the risk to the successful completion of polio eradication is magnified by a global funding gap of US$210 million, needed for eradication activities through 2005, funds more urgently needed than ever to deal with the threat of imported virus. 

If the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is successful, polio will be the first disease to be eradicated in the 21st century, and will represent the attainment of a unique global public good and equity in health for all countries. 


  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.  The poliovirus is circulating in only seven countries, down from over 125 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988.  The seven countries with indigenous wild poliovirus are:  Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan, Niger and Somalia.
  • The OIC resolution is the latest in a series of public support statements, after leaders of the African Union and G8 countries re-affirmed commitments to eradicate polio at their respective Summits earlier in 2003.
  • This year to date (as of 15 October 2003), there have been 414 cases of wild poliovirus reported worldwide (including nine importations).  Specifically in OIC countries, the figures are:  Nigeria (178 cases), Pakistan (72 cases), Egypt (1 case), Afghanistan (5 cases) and Niger (4 cases).  Somalia has not reported a wild poliovirus case in over 12 months, since 6 October 2002. 

* * * *

For further information, please contact :

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

Kate Donovan, UNICEF/New York,
tel. +1 212 326 7452,  kdonovan@unicef.org

For further information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, please see www.polioeradication.org, Rotary International’s PolioPlus site at http://www.rotary.org/foundation/polioplus/, www.cdc.gov, or the polio site on www.unicef.org/polio




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