The 2012 RI Convention Polio Milestones announced in Bangkok, Thailand

Bruce Aylward announces Polio achievement at 2012 R. I. Convention

Bruce Aylward tells Rotarians India's removal from the polio-endemic list is a magnificent Rotary achievement.

Rotarians celebrate milestones in the fight to rid the world of polio – 8 May 2012

Rotarians Tuesday celebrated two major milestones in the organization’s decades-long fight to rid the world of polio.
During the third plenary session of the 2012 RI Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, which was also made available through a live webcast, Rotarians were congratulated for meeting and exceeding Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge, Rotary's response to $355 million in matching grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for polio eradication efforts.

Bruce Aylward, assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration for the World Health Organization, said India’s removal from the polio-endemic list is “perhaps the most important milestone ever on the long road to eradication.” Attendees also celebrated India’s removal from the polio-endemic list in February, which leaves only three countries where transmission of the virus has never been stopped. “It’s a magnificent achievement. And it is a Rotary achievement,” he said. “Today, Rotary’s vision of a polio-free world is much closer to reality.”

But an upsurge in cases of paralysis from polio in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and recent polio outbreaks in China, the Congo, and Tajikistan have also prompted what he called an “unprecedented push” to finally end the disease. He said 192 ministers of health will meet next week and declare polio a public health emergency. “The world understands the full consequences of failure,” he said. “We must be faster, we must be more focused and each one of us must be fully accountable.”

But speakers reminded the festive assembly that the work is far from complete, because the ultimate goal has not been reached. “We know that we haven’t reached our goal. We haven’t ended polio,” said John F. Germ, chair of Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge Committee. “Our clubs are still planning polio fundraisers for the coming years and encouraging donations from people in their communities.”

Germ announced that, as of 4 May, Rotarians and supporters have raised $215.7 million for the challenge, which runs through June. But with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative facing a significant funding shortfall for 2012 and beyond, it is vital for clubs and districts to keep pushing forward with their many creative fundraisers.
Public health emergency

Indian philanthropist Rajashree Birla, who has given more than $4.2 million to the Foundation for polio eradication, said she has been “overwhelmed with Rotary’s polio efforts.” Birla’s late husband, Aditya, built the family business into one of India’s largest. Today, Birla and her son, Kumar Mangalam, head the Aditya Birla Group, a Fortune 500 company. Birla stressed the need for business accountability and community service. Her Giving to Living campaign encourages corporations to “embed giving into their DNA.”

“When a corporation pushes its energies and helps resolve social sector issues through engagement, it indirectly stimulates its own business development,” said Birla. “There is much to be gained when business leaders take giving to heart, and set the mandate of making a difference by caring for people in their community.”


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