Rotary honors U.S. leaders for their continuing support for a polio-free world
(Washington DC - 7 May 2008) – Rotary International today recognized members of Congress 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 $1.4 billion to polio eradication. While presenting the awards at a reception in Washington, DC, James Lacy, past President of Rotary International said, “Thanks to your support, the world stands on the cusp of a historic victory over polio. US leadership is crucial to ensuring that every child is protected. Together, we can ensure that no child anywhere will ever again suffer the terrible pain of life-long polio-paralysis.”
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.
Recipients of Rotary’s 2008 Polio Eradication Champion Award include: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Rep. Steven R. Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Ed Royce (D-CA), Rep. James Walsh (R-NY), Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN).
In 2007, Rotary and its global partners at the World Health Organization (WHO), US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF, helped the world move several critical milestones closer toward eradicating polio globally – Rotary’s top philanthropic goal.
Though great progress has been made, challenges remain. Overall, the quality of immunization campaigns must be improved with strong political oversight from the governments of the endemic countries. In addition, more funding is critically needed. The GPEI is facing a funding gap of US$525 million for 2008-2009, and of this, US$175 million is urgently needed in 2008.
Past recipients of Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award were also honored for their continued support toward polio eradication. They include: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Rep. Donna M. Christensen (D-VI), Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL), Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY), Rep. Dave Obey (D-WI), Rep. Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. John Peterson (R-PA), Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Roger F. Wicker (R-MS) Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), Rep. Ike Skelton (D-WA), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Dr. Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the US Department of State, and Dr. William R. Steiger, Director of Health Affairs and Special Assistant to the Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. In 1985, Rotary members worldwide vowed to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Since then, Rotary has contributed $700 million to polio eradication, of which the approximately 400,000 members of Rotary clubs in the United States have contributed nearly $200 million. Besides raising and contributing funds, Rotary members have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.
To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid 1980s to 1,310 cases all last year. 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.
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 32,000 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.
For further information visit, www.rotary.org or www.polioeradication.org