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UN hails Rotary's fund raising for polio eradication
04 June 2003

Brisbane: Warning that lack of funding continues to stand in the way of a polio-free world, United Nations agencies today hailed Rotary International for raising nearly $90 million as part of the "front line" battle to immunize every child and urged the global community to follow the organization's example.

"Reaching every last child, in every corner of the world takes dollars, commitment and volunteers," Dr. Shigeru Omi, Director at the World Health Organization's Regional Office for the Western Pacific, told 16,000 Rotary members gathered at their international convention in Brisbane, Australia.

WHO and Rotary International are partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, formed in 1988 as a public-private partnership that also includes the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with support from national governments, private foundations such as the UN Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, development banks, donor governments, corporations and individuals.

From its headquarters in New York, UNICEF's Executive Director Carol Bellamy, added her praise. "Rotarians really are the heart and soul of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative," she said. "Eighteen years ago they took their vision of a polio-free world for children to the international community. Since then they have contributed not just money, but passion, creativity and genuine hard work on the ground."

Rotary's release today of the results of its yearlong campaign to raise funds for a polio-free world - $88,557,000 - came less than 30 days after the announcement that a critical funding gap threatens the Initiative.

Recognizing that insufficient funding is now the single biggest threat to polio eradication, Rotary members everywhere held fundraising events or personally donated to the cause. Throughout the world, 1.2 million members held auctions and charity raffles, cycled thousands of kilometres and organized many other activities to raise funds for eradicating polio. Rotary's latest fundraising drive is in addition to over $500 million the service organization has already contributed to the cause.

Warning that the funding gap for 2003-2005 continues to stand in the way of a polio-free world, the Initiative urged the global community to follow Rotary's lead and commit the necessary resources to getting the job done. The Initiative has slashed the incidence of polio by more than 99 per cent. In 1988, more than 350 000 children across the globe were paralysed by polio. In 2002, the world had only 1919 reported cases in seven countries.

Read more: Rotary Raises US$88,557,000 to Battle Polio