Gates meets with district governors from endemic countries
Bill Gates met privately with incoming district governors from the four polio-endemic countries on 21 January at the 2009 International Assembly. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
Bill Gates met Wednesday morning with incoming district governors from the four countries where the wild poliovirus still exists -- Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- to encourage them to continue in their efforts to end polio.
The meeting, which was unexpected for the district governors-elect, occurred a short time before Gates took the stage during the fifth plenary session of the International Assembly to announce a new award of US$255 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Rotary International for polio eradication. Rotary will raise $100 million in matching funds over the next three years.
“[Gates] talked about how he had just been to India in November and how impressed he was with all that Rotarians in India and the government were doing in the effort to eradicate polio,” said Deepak Purohit of District 3131 (part of Maharashtra, India). “He said our really hard work will be instrumental in approaching the remaining stumbling blocks, and that he is sure we will end polio.”
Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary's International PolioPlus Committee, updated the district governors-elect on the status of polio in the world, noting that while there is good news, there are also tough challenges ahead. He noted that through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, type 2 polio was eradicated in 1999. But an epidemic of type 1 polio in northern Nigeria has been among some of the year’s bad news.
Purohit, an orthopedic surgeon, said his clinic performs corrective surgery for polio victims in six countries. He said meeting Gates has recharged his personal drive to promote Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign in his year as district governor.
“This is fantastic. It is the best kept secret of this assembly,” he said.
Atmaram Gawande, governor-elect from District 6690 (Ohio, USA), said such a personal commitment by Gates, including his trip to India and his appearance at the assembly, increases Rotary’s credibility in the eyes of the world.
In his opinion, said Gawande, “This is the first time that such a major announcement has been made at an assembly.”
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