UN hails Rotary International on its centennial for fighting to eradicate polio

21 June 2005
Child receiving polio vaccine

The United Nations today paid tribute to Rotary International on the humanitarian service organization’s 100th anniversary for its commitment to ending polio worldwide as a leading member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, to which it has contributed well over half a billion dollars to help immunize more than 2 billion children.

The United Nations today paid tribute to Rotary International on the humanitarian service organization’s 100th anniversary for its commitment to ending polio worldwide as a leading member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, to which it has contributed well over half a billion dollars to help immunize more than 2 billion children.

“In the effort to eradicate polio, Rotary International has spurred a model private-public partnership,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Lee Jong-wook told Rotarians gathered for the centenary celebrations in Chicago.

“The combined strengths of civil society, the private sector, governments and international agencies, have made enormous progress in what once seemed an impossible task,” he added of the once-widespread paralyzing disease that infected hundreds of thousands of children each year.

As a key partner in the Global Initiative, the world’s largest health drive which also includes the WHO, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary is the leading private-sector contributor, surpassed only by the United States Government.

Since 1985, when Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, individual Rotary members have collectively raised $600 million and contributed countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.

“Rotarians continue to be the heart and soul of the polio eradication effort,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “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.”

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 per cent reduction. But the goal is threatened by a major funding shortfall and the initiative urgently needs $50 million dollars in 2005 and another $200 million in 2006.

 

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