Rotary President, Commonwealth Heads of Government and UN Secretary General Call for Final Push Toward Polio Free World

28 Nov, 2015, 09:34 ET from Rotary

VALLETTA, Malta, November 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --

Representing civil society and Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, Rotary International President K. R. Ravindran joined UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and heads of government from Commonwealth member states in commitment to ending polio, a paralyzing disease on the brink of global eradication. The event was hosted by Malta's Prime Minister and CHOGM Chair Joseph Muscat.

Muscat hosted the event to recognize collective progress and the need for continued global commitment. Leaders acknowledged the significant progress made since 2011, when Commonwealth leaders last discussed polio. India and all of Southeast Asia were certified free from polio in 2014. Earlier this year, Nigeria and Africa passed a year without a case of wild polio. Pakistan and Afghanistan are currently the only countries in the world with endemic polio virus transmission.

Ravindran emphasized the need for continued global focus. "We are playing for stakes that are incredibly high, and our target is microscopically small. Until we find every last poliovirus, and vaccinate every last child, our immunization, surveillance, monitoring, staffing, and infrastructure must be robustly maintained."

The Commonwealth's work toward polio eradication is highly symbolic of the 2015 CHOGM's theme of Adding Global Value, which aspires to leverage the strengths of the Commonwealth to make a substantive difference to the lives of people around the world.

An estimated €1.4 billion is needed to immunize children in countries which at risk for polio outbreaks, primarily in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Leaders attending the summit called for continued political and financial commitment. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the need for support to go beyond governments, including all sectors and civil society. He recognized the unique contribution of Rotary volunteers in the global effort.

Ravindran welcomed the news of continued support noting that "Eliminating a disease completely is the ultimate in sustainable development: a limited investment that yields infinite returns."

Rotary made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal in 1985. As the volunteer arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary has contributed more than €1.4 billion to ending polio. To date, more than 2.5 billion children have been immunized against the paralyzing and sometimes deadly poliovirus.

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