Rotary honors Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari as a champion in the effort to eradicate polio
Evanston, Ill. USA (August 5, 2009) – Rotary International will recognize His Excellency, Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan, with the Polio Eradication Champion Award on August 5 for his leadership and his country’s dedication in the support of a polio-free world.
The award, which will be presented on behalf of Rotary International by Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee Chair Robert Scott, was established in 1995 and is the highest award Rotary awards to honor heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made significant contributions toward polio eradication.
“On behalf of 1.2 million members worldwide including more than 5,100 members of Rotary clubs in Pakistan, I am honored to recognize the commitment of President Asif Ali Zardari, for his outstanding support of a polio-free world,” said Scott.
Although Pakistan remains one of four polio-endemic countries, under the leadership of President Zadari, direct political engagement and oversight of polio eradication activities has increased substantially. He has worked closely with Prime Minister Gilani and the Ministry of Health to implement effective measures regarding polio, and ensure that the children of Pakistan are protected through polio vaccination.
In his efforts to eliminate polio from Pakistan, President Zadari has worked to gain the support of local elders and Ulema in tribal areas where it is difficult to operate due to conflict. He has also strived to ensure the safety of mothers and children during vaccination days.
“The measures that President Zadari has taken will help protect the gains already made to free Pakistan from polio, and will ensure that this crippling disease is conquered as soon as possible,” said Scott.
A highly infectious disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes death, polio still strikes children in parts of Africa and South Asia. As there is no cure, the best protection is prevention. For as little as 60 cents worth of vaccine, a child can be protected against this crippling disease. To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid-1980s to less than 2,000 reported cases all last year.
Other 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, former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia, former Prime Minister John Howard of Australia; former Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand; former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain; Alpha Oumar Konare, former chair of the African Union Commission; former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India; President Yar’Adua of Nigeria; former President Bill Clinton of the United States; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; President Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg; President Mamadou Tandja of Niger; President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain; former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland and first lady Suzanne Mubarak of Egypt.
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 -- a public/private partnership spearheaded by World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF -- Rotary has contributed more than US$ 800 million to ending polio.
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 International is the world’s first and one of the largest volunteer service organizations with 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries and regions.
# # #