RICHMOND, British Columbia, Feb. 23, 2013 /CNW/ - International Cooperation Minister, the Honourable Julian Fantino, today announced that the Government of Canada will contribute additional money to the global initiative to eradicate polio. This additional funding will lift the nationwide Pennies and More for Polio fundraiser above the $3 million mark by matching, dollar for dollar, the total amount of funds donated by Rotarians in Canada prior to the March 1, 2013 deadline.
In an innovative public-private effort, Government of Canada and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation each originally agreed to match, dollar-for-dollar, the money raised by Rotary clubs across Canada up to $1 million. The Rotary clubs surpassed the million-dollar goal well ahead of the March 1 campaign conclusion, raising about $1.5 million so far.
"Rotarians in Canada should be applauded for their success in combating this devastating disease," said Minister Fantino. "I am pleased to announce that the Harper Government will not cap its contribution at $1 million, but instead match the dollar for dollar total amount that Rotarians raise by the time the campaign comes to an end."
Minister Fantino's announcement was made during the opening session of the Rotary Peace Forum, a one-day conference – organized and hosted by Vancouver area Rotary clubs – exploring successful strategies to build peace and resolve conflicts at all levels of society, from the local community to the international level.
The Gates Foundation also extended its match to March 1, meaning every additional dollar raised by Canadian Rotary clubs will continue to be tripled. If the campaign ended today, it would yield $4.5 million, enough to protect 2.7 million children for life against the crippling poliovirus through massive vaccination campaigns carried out by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in which Rotary is a spearheading partner.
Every year, Rotary clubs use the Feb. 23 anniversary of Rotary International as a platform to rally support for the humanitarian group's top priority: the global eradication of the crippling disease polio.
"Canadian Rotarians are proud to celebrate today -- Rotary's 108th anniversary -- this effort that has helped bring us closer to a polio-free world," said Robert S. Scott, of Cobourg, Ont., chair of the Rotary International PolioPlus Committee. "It is a prime example of the collaboration between the Canadian government, the private sector and dedicated Canadians who contribute generously, united in the fight to end polio. The support of the Canadian Government has been and will continue to be critical in the final push to end polio. We are on the verge of eradicating a deadly disease and must redouble our efforts to ensure that the goal is reached. We cannot afford to stop now."
The Canadian government is a longtime supporter of polio eradication, contributing more than $390 million to the effort. Canadian Rotary clubs have raised nearly $24 million, not counting the Pennies and More for Polio campaign.
"We have a unique window of opportunity to change history and end polio thanks to tremendous advances in 2012. This innovative program is another example of Canada's and Rotarians' longtime commitment and leadership to ensuring children are forever protected from this debilitating but preventable disease," said Chris Elias, president of the Global Development Program at the Gates Foundation.
In a break from its recent tradition of illuminating world landmarks with Rotary's pledge to End Polio Now, this year the organization is casting the spotlight on the need for governments worldwide to provide the approximately $1 billion in resources needed to build on the significant gains against the disease achieved in 2012. If the eradication initiative falters, experts warn that polio can quickly rebound and spread, potentially paralyzing 200,000 children a year around the world.
In the days surrounding Feb. 23, Rotary clubs worldwide invite elected leaders, government officials, and the general public to polio-themed club events to learn about the eradication effort and stress the importance of finishing a job that is 99 percent accomplished by successfully reaching every child in the world with the oral polio vaccine.
Clubs are further encouraged to continue advocacy activities through April to build support for a Vaccine Summit that will be held April 24-25 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The summit, where funding commitments from donor countries around the world will be announced, will highlight the promise of polio eradication and its broader implication for all diseases preventable through vaccination.
Worldwide in 2012, fewer than 240 polio cases were confirmed, an all-time low, down from 650 cases in 2011. Also in 2012, India – long considered an epicenter of the disease – was removed from the polio-endemic list after posting a full year with no new cases, leaving only Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan as countries where the wild polio virus has never been stopped.
Overall, the annual number of polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the 1980s, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. More than two billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing an estimated five million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths.
In 1988, Rotary helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, now led by Rotary, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Gates Foundation.
Since then, Rotary club members worldwide have contributed more than $1 billion and countless volunteer hours to the polio eradication effort. Also in 2012, Rotary leaders announced Rotary clubs had raised more than $220 million in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Gates Foundation, which in turn contributed an additional $50 million in recognition of Rotary's commitment. All of the resulting $605 million from that fundraising effort is being spent in support of immunization activities in polio-affected countries.
Rotary is a global humanitarian organization with more than 1.2 million members in 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Rotary members are men and women who are business, professional and community leaders with a shared commitment to make the world a better place through humanitarian service. The first Rotary club was founded in Chicago in 1905. To download images and video please visit Rotary's Media Center.
SOURCE: Rotary International