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Rotary welcomes Australian Government’s $100 million commitment to polio eradication

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Speaking at the opening of Rotary International’s annual convention in Sydney, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced his government’s commitment to end the crippling disease polio once and for all by committing $100 million over 5 years.

Dr. Robert S. Scott, MD, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee said, “We are proud to stand alongside the Government of Australia and applaud its commitment to protecting the world’s most vulnerable children against polio.”

Since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year to 416 confirmed in 2013.    That same year, India – once the epicenter for the poliovirus - was declared polio-free and today only three countries remain endemic: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. However, conflict and insecurity in some parts of the world have elevated the risk for outbreaks and international spread of the disease, prompting the World Health Organization to declare polio a public health emergency last month. Funding of life-saving immunization activities over the next several years remains critical to ensuring polio is eradicated by 2018.

“Rotary members in Australia have played a significant part in the history of polio eradication,” said Dr. Scott.

“In 1979, Sir Clem Renouf of Queensland – then president of Rotary International – spearheaded the effort to unite Rotary’s entire global membership behind a single cause for the first time in the organization’s history.”

Rotary launched its polio eradication program in 1985, and in 1988 was joined by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. This ambitious public-private partnership now also includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nearly 30 years later, global polio eradication remains Rotary’s primary humanitarian mission.  Rotary’s leadership role in the effort includes fundraising, advocacy, building awareness and mobilising volunteers. Rotary has contributed more than $1.3 billion to end polio, including $21.2 million donated by Australia’s 32,243 Rotary members.

“Many Rotary members travel internationally to join fellow Rotarians and health workers in polio-affected countries to immunize children,” said Dr. Scott.  “For example, Jenny Horton, a Rotary member from Brisbane and a registered nurse, has helped vaccinate children in eight countries, including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.” Said Dr Scott

Rotary’s annual convention is taking place in Sydney 1-4 June. The event is expected to draw more than 18,000 registrants from 152 countries, injecting an estimated $60.5 million into the local economy.

About Rotary

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 34,000 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. To access broadcast quality video footage and still photos of Rotary members immunizing children against polio available go to: The Newsmarket.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Vivian Fiore, 0424273559, 9704 1117, Vivian.fiore@rotary.org

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