The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) today presented the “United Nations Foundation Award for Leadership in Global Polio Eradication” to the Government of Canada for its constant, generous support of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Since the beginning of the effort, polio has been reduced by 99 percent worldwide and today it remains a threat only in and surrounding West and Central Africa, and India and Pakistan.
In response to the alarming rise in polio cases in Africa, last week the Canadian Government pledged an additional special gift of US$34 million, bringing their total contribution to US$123 million since 1988. In addition, the per capita donations from Canadian citizens through their government are among the highest in the world.
Launched by the World Health Assembly in 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is being carried out by a public-private partnership, including the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rotary International, with its 1.3 million members worldwide. The UN Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank have been active members and substantial financial backers of the alliance against the crippling disease.
The Ambassador of Canada to the United States, His Excellency Michael Kergin, received the award for his Government on Jan. 27 during a ceremony held at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
“I am delighted to accept this award on behalf of all the Canadians who have worked so hard and contributed so much to eliminate the scourge of polio in the world,” said Ambassador Kergin. “We need to finish the job. And that is why Canada announced earlier this month that it was stepping in to fund the immediate shortfall faced by the GPEI, providing US$34 million to help finally eradicate this crippling disease.”
At the same event, the UN Foundation presented awards to four Canadians who have played key roles in public advocacy and resource mobilization for the polio eradication effort. They are:
• Dr. Bruce Aylward of the WHO, who has been a coordinator of the Global Initiative since 1998;
• Linda Muller, who has been a principal coordinator of the Initiative’s resource mobilization, communications, and advocacy efforts since 2000;
• Michael Pecho of the Children’s Hospital in Toronto, who led resource mobilization at UNICEF;
• Dr. Robert Scott of Rotary International, who spearheaded the campaign that raised more than US$130 million from Rotarians worldwide in one year, a quarter of the US$500 million contributed to the Initiative by Rotary International since 1988.
“The Government of Canada and the group of Canadian professionals who have played key roles in eradicating polio are an inspiration to us all. They are outstanding partners in the global effort, and we salute them for their extraordinary contributions,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation.
The awards come at an important time in the campaign against polio. Last year the virus was resurgent in West and Central Africa, due to the refusal of leaders in northern Nigeria to permit immunization programs. Although the problem is now resolved, it doubled the number of new cases in Africa in 2004. The anti-polio partnership, working with the affected countries, is making a concerted effort to secure additional resources to increase the numbers of immunization rounds and to enhance surveillance of polio-prone communities. If this effort is successful, it is expected that by the close of this year the polio virus will be interrupted in the regions where it remains a threat.
The UN Foundation has supported the polio eradication effort since its founding, beginning with a US$25 million contribution by UN Foundation Founder and Chairman Ted Turner. In the past five years, the UN Foundation has raised and contributed more than US$100 million to the Initiative, through WHO and UNICEF.
To learn more about the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, visit www.polioeradication.org.
The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist Ted Turner’s historic gift to support United Nations’ causes. The UN Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the UN. Through its grant making and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the UN Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.