Rotary honors U.S. leaders for their work to end polio
(Evanston, IL – 5 May 2010) Rotary International today recognized members of Congress and government officials with its Polio Eradication Champion Award
for their ongoing support in securing critically needed funds to achieve a polio-free world.
Since the mid-1980s, the United States government has contributed a total of $1.7 billion to polio eradication. While presenting the awards at a reception in Washington, DC, James Lacy, past President of Rotary International said, “Thanks in great part to the support of the US government, the world stands on the cusp of a historic victory over polio,” says Jim Lacy, Chair of Rotary’s Polio Eradication Advocacy Task Force for the United States. “The leadership of these individuals has been crucial to ensuring that every child is protected. Together, we can ensure that no child anywhere will ever again suffer the crippling effects of polio.” Recipients of Rotary’s 2010 Polio
Eradication Champion Award
include: US Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, Maria Otero; Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).
As further affirmation of support, President Barack Obama announced a global push for polio eradication in conjunction with the Organization of the Islamic Conference during his 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt – where ancient artwork carried the earliest known depictions of people disabled by polio.
In addition to the 2010 honorees, Rotary acknowledged the ongoing leadership of some 40 other Senators and U.S. Representatives whom Rotary has previously recognized. “The progress made toward polio eradication is seen through the collective achievement of the current and past Congressional recipients of the Polio Eradication Champion Award,” said Lacy. “When Congress began its support of this effort in 1995, nearly 60 countries had polio. Today, there are only four countries that have never stopped the spread of polio. We must maintain this level of dedication to end polio forever.”
Poliomyelitis (polio), a disease that conjures up memories of iron lungs and calipers from more than half a century ago in the US, is still paralyzing and killing children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As there is no cure for polio, the best protection is prevention. For as little as .60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this devastating disease for life. To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid-1980s, to fewer than 1,700 reported cases in 2009.
The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, as well as the Western Pacific region in 2000 and Europe in 2002. Once eradicated, polio will be the second disease after smallpox ever to be eliminated worldwide.
Other global leaders who have been honored with Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award
include Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, President Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India; Prime Minister Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, President Mamadou Tandja of Niger; President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Nigeria; President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan; and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Rotary made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal in 1985. As the lead private sector contributor and volunteer arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), Rotary has contributed more than $900 million to ending polio, of which the approximately 400,000 members of Rotary clubs in the United States have contributed over $200 million. Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million toward a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These funds will provide much needed operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment and educational materials for health workers and parents.
To date, more than two billion children have been immunized against the paralyzing and sometimes deadly poliovirus. Tremendous progress has been made in the last two decades, as polio cases have declined by 99 percent. Yet, challenges remain in the four polio-endemic countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide to provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. It is comprised of 1.2 million members working in over 33,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as violence, AIDS, hunger, the environment and health care.
The GPEI is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Additional support is provided by the U.S. Coalition for the Eradication of Polio, a group of committed child health advocates led by Rotary that includes the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United Nations Foundation.
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