Rotary Recognizes U.S. Government for Supporting Effort to Eradicate Polio Worldwide
WASHINGTON, May 11 -- Rotary International will today honor Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), for leading US government agencies vitally engaged in ending polio worldwide -- Rotary’s top philanthropic goal.
A highly infectious disease that can cause paralysis and sometimes death, polio still strikes children in parts of Africa and Asia. Following an international investment of US$4 billion and the successful engagement of over 200 countries and 20 million volunteers, polio eradication is close at hand.
In presenting Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award to Dr. Gerberding, Rotary International President Glenn Estess said, “Under Dr. Gerberding’s leadership, the CDC, a spearheading partner with us in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, has provided crucial technical and financial support. Dr. Gerberding’s recent travels to the polio strongholds of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have encouraged her counterparts in those countries to intensify their efforts against polio.”
The CDC deploys expert staff to polio endemic countries, operates the world’s leading specialized polio reference lab, and funded vaccinations in high-risk countries last year.
Fellow award recipient Andrew Natsios, administrator of USAID, was recognized for his commitment to eradicating polio. Under his leadership, USAID provided crucial support for the synchronized polio immunization campaigns in 23 west and central African countries this year and last, including critical work to reach children in the previously inaccessible areas of Darfur, Sudan and Northern Nigeria. In Southeast Asia, USAID grants supported immunization activities that impacted over 200 million children in 2004. Worldwide, USAID contributed $32 million last year to aid in the development and maintenance of polio eradication infrastructure, and funded immunizations, surveillance and social mobilization activities.
As the largest donor to this global endeavor, the United States government has contributed more than US $1 billion to polio eradication since 1995. Estess said, “U.S. leadership is crucial to ensure the threshold of victory over polio is crossed.”
Great strides have been made. When Rotary began its polio immunization program in the mid 1980s, this crippling disease infected approximately 1,000 children every day. At the end of 2004, 1267 children contracted polio in 20 countries, down from the 350,000 cases estimated in 125 countries in 1988. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, as well as the Western Pacific region in 2000, and Europe in 2002. Once eradicated, polio will be the second disease after smallpox ever to be eliminated worldwide.
Despite this success, the final phase of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has proven the most challenging. Reaching every child with the vaccine, including those in high-density populations and areas of civil unrest, maintaining political commitment in the face of a disappearing disease, and bridging a multi-million dollar funding gap are obstacles that must still be overcome.
The ultimate success of polio eradication depends on stopping the spread of the poliovirus in key ’reservoirs’, such as northern Nigeria, northern India and Pakistan, from where the virus is currently being exported into polio-free countries. In addition, a 2005-06 shortfall of US$ 250 million threatens countries’ polio eradication efforts. US$ 50 million of this is needed by July for activities in the second half of 2005.
Dr. Gerberding and Administrator Natsios join a prestigious group of leaders who have been honored with Rotary’s Polio Eradication Champion Award, including former United States President William Jefferson Clinton, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rt. Hon. John Major, First Lady of Egypt Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, President of Angola Jose Eduardo dos Santos, German Minister of Economic Development and Cooperation Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard of the Netherlands, President Chen Shui-Bian of Taiwan, President Pervez Musharaf of Pakistan, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto of Japan, and President Mamadou Tandja of Niger.
Rotary International -- http://www.rotary.org -- is one of the world’s first and largest volunteer service organizations with 1.2 million members in 168 countries. In 1985, Rotary created PolioPlus, a program to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Since then, Rotary has committed more than US$600 million to polio eradication - representing the largest private- sector support of a global health initiative ever. Over one million Rotary members have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative 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).
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