For immediate release
Contact: Audrey Carl, (847) 866-3424, Audrey.Carl@rotary.org
Evanston, Ill. (May 11, 2016) – Rotary will recognize five members of Congress for their support of the humanitarian service organization's top priority to eradicate polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that still paralyzes children in parts of the world today.
The following lawmakers will be presented with Rotary's Polio Eradication Champion Award during an event at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2016: Sen. Roy Blunt (MO.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR.), Sen. Brian Schatz (HI), Rep. Tom Cole (OK), and Rep. Dave Reichert (WA).
These five lawmakers serve as advocates for securing U.S. government funding for polio eradication activities through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As key allies, they influence both their constituents at home and congressional colleagues to support a polio-free world.
Polio affected scores of Americans during epidemics in the 1950s, but has since been reduced by 99.9 percent worldwide. Rotary launched its PolioPlus program in 1985 and in 1988 became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since the initiative launched in 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted from about 350,000 cases a year to just 74 cases 2015. Though eradicated in the U.S. in 1979 and from most of the world today, polio remains endemic in two countries; Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Rotary's main responsibilities within the initiative are fundraising, advocacy, and social mobilization. To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to fight polio. Through 2018, every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication will be matched two-to-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation up to $35 million a year.
Significant progress has been made in the past year. In September 2015, Nigeria was declared polio-free and was removed from the endemic list, and no single case of polio has been reported on the African continent since August 2014. And Pakistan, which accounted for nearly 90 percent of the world's polio cases in 2014, reported just 54 cases in 2015. Between 17 April and 1 May, approximately 150 countries participated in a switch from the trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (bOPV) in a massive, synchronized effort representing the largest withdrawal of one vaccine, and associated roll out of another vaccine in history.
As the world's largest funder of polio eradication, the U.S. government has contributed more than $2.8 billion since the mid-1980s. To support the final push to end polio, Rotary and its partners are asking for $234 million in U.S. funding in 2017 through the CDC and USAID.
Rotary established the Polio Eradication Champion Award in 1995 to recognize heads of state, health agency leaders and others who have made a significant contribution to polio eradication.
Past recipients of the Rotary award include Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and 43 current members of the 114th Congress previously recognized by Rotary as Champions.
Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world's most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit rotary.org and endpolio.org for more about Rotary and its efforts to eradicate polio. Video and still images will be available on the Rotary Media Center.