Pakistan president recognizes Rotary leaders for polio eradication efforts
, Ill. (March 21, 2011) —Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will confer major civil awards to two Rotary leaders -- one Canadian and the other Pakistani -- for their contributions to the nation’s polio eradication effort.
Dr. Robert S. Scott, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, will receive the Sitar-e-Khidmat award; and Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary’s Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee, will accept the President’s Pride of Performance award during a ceremony at Aiwan e Sadr on Pakistan Day, Wednesday, March 23.
The awards were announced January 24 in a public ceremony in which President Zardari launched a new emergency action plan for polio eradication. Pakistan is one of four polio-endemic countries, and the only one that saw an increase in polio cases in 2010 (144 cases total). Health officials say that the only way to achieve polio eradication in Pakistan is through consistent, high quality polio immunization rounds.
President Zardari said that Pakistan has made significant progress since the nation’s polio immunization campaign began in 1994, when more than 30,000 polio cases were reported annually.
“Our aim is to make Pakistan completely polio free [so] that no child lives in the fear of being crippled for life,” the president said.
While in Pakistan, Dr. Scott, of Ontario, Canada, will also meet with officials from the Ministry of Health, the Government of Sindh, and members of Rotary’s Pakistan National PolioPlus Committee.
Rotary in Pakistan is actively involved in implementing the new polio emergency response plan. The National PolioPlus Committee appointed chief coordinators for each of the nation’s four provinces to mobilize Rotary clubs during national immunization days.The clubs work to create awareness about the importance of polio immunizations, encouraging parents to immunize their children against the disease.
Beginning in 1985, when polio paralyzed more than 350,000 children in 125 countries every year, eradication has been Rotary’s top philanthropic goal. Since then, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent worldwide, with fewer than 1,300 reported cases in 2010.
Although just four countries remain polio-endemic -- Afghanistan, India, and Nigeria are the other three --other nations remain at risk for polio outbreaks due to infections imported from the endemic countries.
As the volunteer arm and one of the top private sector contributors of the polio eradication initiative, Rotary has contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary is currently working to raise an additional $200 million toward a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The resulting funds will be used for critically-needed polio immunization activities.
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